by Mike McNabb
In the name of empowerment, service users are having a greater say in how and from whom they receive care.
Individual budgets, which give service users the freedom to hire – and fire – carers, are in theory a fine idea, as long as you have the capacity to interview and the stamina to sack someone who isn’t up to standard.
Now there are indications that this principle of empowerment could be extended to people with long-term medical conditions, such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes and motor neurone disease. The effect would be for patients to self-manage their condition and reduce the burden on the NHS.
The Expert Patients’ Programme, launched by the Department of Health in 2001, is the driver for self-directed support by people with some long-term conditions and acknowledges the convergence of health and social care issues. The EPP and the evaluation of the pilot phase is explained in greater detail by Alison Petch, director of Research in Practice for Adults.
Worryingly, the evaluation suggests more needs to be done before such a system is rolled out.
It was found that, although the number of overnight hospital stays was reduced, there was in fact no overall change in the use of health services.
The self-care training that patients underwent as part of the programme brought confirmation of their established strategies but failed to provide new ones.
And there was a failure to attract people assessed as being in hard-to-reach groups.
It all seems a tad negative. To use advertising speak: EPP needs a USP, a unique selling point.
Yet it might have one thus far unrealised: all these service users gathering together for training could prove the basis for a user movement.
Perhaps by accident the EPP really could empower service users.