Observations On the Contrary

Patient choice minus the ulterior motive

BMJ 2010; 340 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c3457 (Published 30 June 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;340:c3457
  1. Tony Delamothe, deputy editor, BMJ
  1. tdelamothe{at}bmj.com

    The new government doesn’t share its predecessor’s faith in the power of patient choice

    The election manifestos of all three major political parties promised to extend patient choice in the NHS, so unsurprisingly it turned up in the coalition’s statement of intent published a fortnight after the election. It guaranteed patients the right to choose their general practitioner and healthcare providers, so long as they met NHS standards within NHS prices.

    Hardly revolutionary stuff, especially since the right to free choice of provider was enshrined in the NHS Constitution last year. So what’s happened to the crucial role of patient choice in promoting competition between rival providers, so beloved of the last government? A close reading of the new secretary of state’s first speeches on the NHS has strengthened my hunch that the oomph has gone out of the patient choice agenda.

    That’s not to say that Andrew Lansley has lost sight of patients. On the contrary, he wants “to create a system of patient-centred care.” But promoting patient choice is now seen as a desirable end in itself, not as a weapon for destabilising the status quo. In this new model, you put the patient …

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