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GP-patient relationship in need of first aid

The conversation between GPs and patients is under enormous pressure, and must be rethought for a less deferential age in which patients have access to vast amounts of medical information, a report launched by Demos today will argue.

The report argues that the traditional model of "doctor knows best" is being eroded. People, especially those with rare or chronic diseases, increasingly want to participate in their own treatments. GPs and policymakers must embrace patient engagement in medical treatment and healthcare, rather than stigmatising informed patients as "cyberchondriacs".

The pamphlet, produced in partnership with Pfizer UK, Rethink and Diabetes UK, and based on in-depth consultation with GPs, policy-makers and service users, argues that patient engagement can and should form the basis for effective health policy reform. Endless Whitehall quick-fixes only defer the problem; the real key to transforming the health system is to enable patients to actively participate in the conversations taking place in GP's consulting rooms.

Demos researcher and co-author of the study Jack Stilgoe said:

"Any GP will recognise the patient who comes into their surgery carrying armfuls of printouts from the internet. But rather than groaning, doctors need to see this as a good thing. Patients are becoming experts too, and the NHS needs to acknowledge this and listen to them.

As Lord Darzi puts the finishing touches to his review on the future of the NHS, the focus should be less about the mechanics of the system, and more about the people that are at the heart of healthcare."

The report recommends:

  • GPs and patients with chronic conditions should jointly establish "outcome statements" with shared goals, creating a partnership between GP and patient.  
  • Patients with long-term conditions should be allocated personal healthcare budgets to allow them to take part in building the services and care which suit them best.
  • Government should create "Wikirecords" - online, accessible records which patients could contribute to and comment on.
  • Information and condition-specific "patient packs" should be provided by GPs and the NHS as an integral part of treatment.
  • Patient groups such as Diabetes UK and Rethink should create pilot programmes to realise the vision of patient engagement set out by Derek Wanless in his 2002 report.
  • Government should place GP-patient relationships at the heart of the proposed NHS Constitution.

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