All hands to help health service

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THE Stirling Institute for People-Centred Healthcare Management hosted a discussion on Mutuality in Scottish Healthcare at the Western Isles Campus of the University of Stirling in Stornoway on April 14 and 15.

The aim was to help better understand what a ‘mutual’ health service would look like, how it would work and how this might guide changes to the NHS both now and in the long run.

This is especially important in view of the extraordinary challenges posed by the economic crisis and the rising costs of healthcare.

Mutual organisations are designed to gather people around a common sense of purpose: stronger public involvement, improving the patient experience and clearer patient rights. This includes enhanced local democracy - for example through direct elections to Boards - and independent scrutiny of proposals for major service change.

Dr Michael Walsh from the University said: “Mutuality implies especial concern with irreversible empowerment and with the public good.

“The development of mutual healthcare necessitates the nurturing of ‘leading’ behaviour and activity amongst all members of open communities. This goes beyond current arrangements through, for example, the development of suitable healthcare forums.”

Taking part in the discussion were Gordon Jameson, Chief Executive of NHS Western Isles; a representative of NHS Education Scotland; local councillors; University staff, and a group of postgraduate students of the Institute who are also NHS Management Trainees.

The discussion concluded that moving towards a mutual health system, and its subsequent delivery, will require new ways of thinking about health and healthcare.

There will need to be a move, over time, to a more inclusive relationship – a relationship where patients, and the publics of which they are a part, can take much more responsibility for their own health as empowered partners rather than simply as recipients of healthcare.