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People with long-term conditions should have more independence – IPPR report

People with long-term medical conditions should have more control over the services they receive and more help to manage their conditions from home, a new report from the Institute of Public Policy and Research (IPPR) says.

The report, written by Catherine McDonald, is based on a survey of 2,500 people living with long-term conditions.

Over three-quarters of respondents (77%) said that more of their healthcare could and should be managed independently at home but a lack of support and information was holding them back from doing so.

When asked which from a list of options would be most useful in managing day-to-day care, a named contact-person to handle queries about any aspect of their care was by far the most popular response at 75%. A further 57% thought that having a named contact for telephone support and advice would reduce the number of times they saw their GP, went to hospital or used A&E services.

The report goes on to argue that more should be done to recognise the large amount of self-management done by people with long-term conditions and their carers, and to better support and equip them to do so. It says changes need to be made to the current system for this to happen: “The current system is not designed and delivered to prioritise patient empowerment first and foremost, and in some cases it hinders it.”

Bryn Sage, CEO of Inhealthcare, a digital health company, said about the report: “Fifteen million people in England have a long-term condition and it is estimated that their treatment and care accounts for around 70% of the primary and acute care budget. It is clear from the IPPR’s report that this number could be significantly reduced if patients are given the means to support their over whelming desire to self-manage. For example, frequent monitoring of things like blood pressure or heart rate no longer need to be carried out by a clinician directly, but can be monitored remotely through better use of digital healthcare technologies. 

“While there has long been scepticism about digital health in this country, thanks to the breakdown of previous technology schemes within the NHS, we can’t let the failures of the past affect the future. Patients are clearly ready to be given the means to self-manage their care, and the healthcare community needs to move forward and allow this – not only to improve these patients’ quality of life, but also to improve the service on offer and increase efficiency.”

The IPPR report recommends four short-term solutions that can be put in place in the current healthcare system. They are:

  1. A single, named point of contact for day-to-day queries about health, healthcare and care coordination.
  2. Patients to legally own their medical records, which should continue to be housed in the NHS, but they should be guaranteed free access to their medical records on demand.
  3. Everyone diagnosed with a long-term condition – at the point of diagnosis and regularly thereafter – should be offered information, advice and coaching about how best to self-manage their condition.
  4. Peer-to-peer support accessible to everyone with a long-term condition.

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