Patient power on the agenda

PATIENTS in Suffolk could be able choose when and where they have operations.The idea, which could be reality in two years' time, is being discussed by high-level health bosses at Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority.

PATIENTS in Suffolk could be able choose when and where they have operations.

The idea, which could be reality in two years' time, is being discussed by high-level health bosses at Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority.

Patients being referred to have an operation by their doctor would be given a choice of four or five NHS organisations that could carry out the procedure.

This step comes as part of 'patient choice,' which aims to make the NHS more responsive to the needs of individual patients. Patient choice is being billed as a key milestone in the modernisation of the NHS.

Carole Taylor-Brown, director of corporate development at the authority, said: "A modern health service needs to become more responsive to the needs of patients and choice will do just that.

"Patients will have far greater involvement and control over their own care and greater certainty over when they will be treated.

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"We will be making sure patients have reliable and relevant information about the range and quality of services available to them."

Patient choice is being gradually phased in over the next two years.

By the summer of next year, patients who have waited six months for an operation will be given the choice of an alternative provider.

All patients will then be offered this choice – in the area of planned operations only - by the end of 2005.

The patient choice project is already being run in London. Since October 2002 more than 3,600 patients in the capital who have been waiting more than six months for an operation have opted to go elsewhere for faster treatment.

The Department of Health has also conducted a public consultation looking at extending the scheme into areas including mental health, children's services and maternity care.

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