What help do you need to look after your health in the future?
This is the question we asked members of the public to explore in-depth at the workshops we ran last summer. Read our new report on how people want to play a bigger role in looking after their own health and care and had clear views on what would support them to do that.
The answer was clear - people said that they wanted to play a bigger role in looking after their own health and care and had clear views on what would support them to do that.
By analysing over 11,000 conversations the Healthwatch network has had with the public about this issue, we found five common areas where people wanted to see improvement.
These problems - which included a lack of information and not always being listened to by professionals - are known by the health system but the solutions are not always clear.
We wanted to find out from people what they thought the way forward might be. So we commissioned our research workshops to find out.
What did people say?
With demand for care and medical costs both rising, patients told us that they recognised the pressure on services.
Individuals are worried about doctors burning themselves out and want to help ease the burden.
However, to do this people said that they want services that enable them to take on a greater role in looking after their own wellbeing.
Key themes included:
1 - More information, choice and ownership
In an ideal world, rather than relying on GPs to translate information, people said that they would be able to get the information needed to make more decisions about their care.
Individuals with long-term conditions, who felt they often knew more than their GP did about the issues they face, were especially keen on this idea.
Those we spoke to felt this would be a win-win. Better access to trusted advice and information would enable people to feel more in control and would free GPs to use their expertise to support those who really needed it.
2 - Services working better together
No more having to retell your history or explain your symptoms each time you saw a different health professional. Instead, tomorrow's services would share information effectively.
People felt this would save time and frustration for patients and professionals alike.
If your case was complex, serious or distressing, individuals said it would be useful to get support from someone who could help coordinate care and offer guidance when needed.
This would take pressure off GPs as they wouldn’t need to help people find their way between services.
3 - Prompt, flexible care
People told us that they want quicker access to a flexible range of services to help them stay well or manage any issues they face.
This message was especially strong when it came to mental health care. Individuals spoke openly about their experiences and told us that having to access mental health support through a GP stopped them getting preventative help quickly.
Those we spoke to saw the standard packages of support on offer as not being flexible enough to take account of people’s varying needs.
People wanted direct access to a wider range of services, such as dietetics and physiotherapy, directly. They thought that GP practices should offer more tests, such as ultrasounds, that usually take place in hospital.
4 - Better use of technology
People thought that technology could play a big role in helping to ease the burden on services while giving patients more control over their care.
The was a strong perception that NHS and care services were lagging behind when it came to technology and this was a source of frustration for patients.
Most people wanted to see technology being harnessed to help them book appointments, arrange prescriptions and access records online.
The challenge ahead
From the conversations we have had, it is clear that people’s desire to take greater responsibility for their care is in tune with what many NHS reforms aim to deliver.
However, our research also highlights a much deeper challenge around the changing relationship between patients and professionals. Individuals want to manage their own care more and there is a growing expectation more tailored services. There is also a significant technological gap between the NHS and other sectors that people find frustrating.
It's good to talk
Eight in ten people we polled said that they would be willing to share feedback to help improve GP services.
Our conversations with the public highlight the opportunities that exist for health care commissioners and providers when it comes to avoiding assumptions about what patients want and working with them to design services that better meet their needs.
With the NHS facing significant challenges, we believe the time is ripe to capitalise on the public’s willingness to be involved and develop future services in partnership.