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My health, my choice?

I love listening to the radio, and despite the advent of iPods and MP3s, bigger and better televisions with flat screens, high definition and hundreds of digital channels the "wireless" still remains my favourite.

Just recently I heard the tail end of a programme about horoscopes. The presenter was questioning why there is such an interest in them in this scientific age. One of the answers was that it is because we are overwhelmed with choices in all aspects of life, from the vast range of say cheeses and sausages on display in supermarkets to the many and varied places we can go on holiday, let alone the make, colour or type of lipstick to buy!

The theory was that horoscopes help us to pick our way through the plethora of choices and give us confidence to make decisions, in that if they tell us today is a good day for finances we will concentrate on that and not bother thinking about holidays.

This led me to think about the emphasis that the new NHS - modern and dependable - places on patient choice: Which hospital? Which type of treatment? Which practitioner? Or even should I have this treatment anyway? Too often when people are unwell and worried they need help and guidance.

I well remember as a young mum taking my son to the doctors because I was worried about his cough, only to be told "Well you are a pharmacist, you decide what cough mixture to give him." This was not what I wanted to hear, I felt unsure, vulnerable and desperately wanted some sort of direction.

Nowadays I see this giving of help and guidance as a very important part of our role as healthcare professionals. However, it is not easy to recognise when a patient really only wants a list of options so that they can go away and decide for themselves, or when they want something more, be it evidence, knowledge and information so that they feel empowered and not apprehensive about making a choice that suits them and their situation.

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"I am a practice nurse of many years and I feel that "choice" is not what patients want, no matter what the politicians say, they do not want to decide which hospital or which consultant they should see, how can they know? They want quick, effective treatment at their local hospital" - Name and address