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“2020health is an important and thoughtful contributor to the health debate”

Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee


The power of consumerism – can it improve quality and access?

Jun 01. till Apr 01.

Invitation Only Event

Kindly Hosted by
Mark Field MP

Chaired by
Lord Tim Clement-Jones

June 1, 20152015-06-01T03:30:17 - April 1, 2015 2015-04-01T05:00:37
3:30 PM 2015-06-01T03:30:17 - 5:00 PM 2015-04-01T05:00:37
Portcullis House, Westminster


The idea of 'consumer culture' and the dawn of the 'consumer age’ have at their core the belief that the consumer is king. Today a generation of consumers exists who have high expectations and demands.

The government has made ‘choice’ the cornerstone of many of the reforms of public services, including the NHS. Much has been made of giving patients the choice to decide the location of where they receive their treatment, but this has not been everyone’s reality, nor the follow-on of and how their choices will inform and shape their involvement and relationship with the health and social care system. The recently published NHS 'Five Year Forward' report looks to the future and recognises that there is still more to be done to “fully harnessed the renewable energy represented by patients and communities”.

Anything that genuinely empowers patients to take an active role in their care should be welcomed. The electronic patient record and much of the emerging digital health technologies facilitate this. This helps to provide the basis of co-production where citizens are involved, informed can make intentional decisions about their wellbeing, as well as share their progress with others. To see this discouraged would see the demise of solidarity and community. But to what extent is consumerism helping to truly improve quality and range of care? And can everyone benefit?

There is a risk to consumerism. An overt focus on patients-as-consumers could see the rise of an increasingly individualistic, passive relationship. Citizens believe that because they pay their taxes, it entitles them to the services they want and need. The salient point has been made that healthcare is trying to make sure people stay healthy and engage with less healthcare as opposed to more. By taking steps to recognise the patient as consumer, is there a possibility of increasing unnecessary activity in the NHS, offering treatment and services that patients may be calling for but do not necessarily need?

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