Intended for healthcare professionals

Feature Quality Improvement

Putting patients at the heart of quality

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: (Published 10 May 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e3164
  1. Helen Jaques, deputy editor
  1. 1BMJ Careers, London WC1H 9JR, UK
  1. hjaques{at}

Helen Jaques looks at what patients can bring to the quality improvement process

A key catch phrase to emerge during the Health and Social Care Act’s tumultuous passage into law was “no decision about me without me.” The principle behind the phrase is that giving patients more choice and control will help to make sure services are designed around them and are more responsive to their needs.

Patients can certainly bring a different perspective to the quality improvement process. Patients see every step of the care pathway for a certain condition whereas professionals tend to see only one episode, which means that patients can see shortcomings in care that professionals might be blind to. “Healthcare professionals don’t know what the patient had to go through to get to them or what is actually awaiting them after they have finished,” points out Anna Gregor, clinical lead for the Scottish patient safety programme fellowship at Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

Another view

Patients are also likely to prioritise different aspects of care to clinicians. Patients tend to focus on the interpersonal and amenity aspects of care, such as communication with healthcare staff and quality of the food, rather than the technical and clinical aspects. In some cases doctors might …

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