NHS patients 'not fully engaged' with their own healthcare

November 18, 2004

NHS patients lag behind other western countries in actively involving patients and communities in healthcare, says an editorial in this week's BMJ.

According to a new study from the Commonwealth Fund of New York, British patients receive less information about medicines, preventative advice or help with managing chronic disease at home. They also have poorer access to their records than other countries.

The study compared patients' experience of family doctors in the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the UK, drawing on a random survey of 8672 adults.

Researchers found that more than a third (37%) of surveyed UK patients taking regular prescription medicines said their doctor had not reviewed their medication in the past two years. And 39% said they had not received an explanation of likely side effects of their medicines - a "notably worse result than the other countries", say the authors.

The report also showed that only 27% of British patients in the study felt their doctors had engaged them in making decisions about their healthcare, or offered them choices - compared with 41% in New Zealand. And just 28% reported receiving advice on weight, nutrition and exercise, compared with 52% in the United States.

Substantial evidence indicates that patients engaging actively with healthcare is highly beneficial and often results in more cost effective use of health services and better health outcomes, say the authors. The new contract for family doctors does not recognise or encourage this, however. "The NHS should be supporting the public health push toward full engagement, not working against it", they conclude.


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