The Department of Health white paper 'Our health, our care, our say' published in January 2006 made a commitment to improving access to appropriate information for people with health or social care needs. It stated, 'We propose that services give all people with long-term health and social care needs and their carers an 'information prescription'.
Information prescriptions will be offered to everyone with a long-term condition or social care need, in consultation with a health or social care professional. Information prescriptions will guide people to relevant and reliable sources of information to allow them to feel more in control and better able to manage their condition and maintain their independence.
Information prescriptions will be nationally recognised as a source of key information on services and care that is seamlessly and formally integrated into the care process
Using Information Prescriptions to improve cancer patient experience
In recent years the Department of Health and the National Cancer Action Team have worked in close partnership with Macmillan Cancer Support, Cancer Research UK, cancer networks, local trusts and other charity partners. The task was to bring together the best written information produced by the NHS and the voluntary sector in such a way that is accessible to all cancer services and can be tailored to the personal needs of patients through the Information Prescriptions programme.
As part of the ongoing development process, a range of beacon sites were identified and have been provided with intensive support from Macmillan information prescription facilitators working alongside cancer network patient information and support managers since December 2010. These 15 beacon sites have provided invaluable feedback on how information prescriptions can be used in practice, as well as what further developments are required to support NHS providers in using Information Prescriptions.
Since the beacon programme began, the Government has set out how it intends to reform health services, placing the outcomes that matter to patients at the heart of everything the NHS does. The National Cancer Patient Experience Survey 2010 has been published which provides us with a detailed picture of the experience reported by cancer patients – at a cancer-specific level – in every provider of cancer services in England. This information together with local and national intelligence will support a targeted approach for the next stage of Information Prescriptions roll out across England, commencing in this network with North Bristol Trust
Definition of information prescriptions
An Information Prescription can be summarised as:
"An IP is a personalised selection of quality-assured information materials that is responsive to the needs of patients and their carers throughout their care pathway".
Benefits of Information Prescriptions to patients, carers and health professionals
'Before I had to find all this information for myself. After receiving my information prescription it has made a real difference.’
- Information Prescriptions provide patients and carers with information that is specific, comprehensible and timely and will help to reduce unnecessary anxiety, stress and confusion. They are able to discuss their wider information needs with professionals.
- Patients and carers are able to continue to ask for and receive information at every stage of their care pathway and in every encounter with a professional.
- Patients and carers can make informed choices about what information to receive and in which format, how to receive it, and what decisions to take in relation to their health and well-being (for example about diet and exercise).
- Patients and carers are offered a more flexible service, not restricted by appointment times, and supplied by a wider range of support and advice centres, websites and help-lines. This may also reduce the number of scheduled appointments needed.
- Less crisis management is needed. If patients are better able to self manage their condition, they may be less likely to experience crises such as relapses or chronic episodes.
'The information pointed me in the right direction it gave me some new phone numbers and contacts if I needed extra help at any time.'
- Information Prescriptions will improve information and health literacy among patients and carers. They will become better informed about their own condition and sources of support and information available and more able to make sense of that information and articulate their needs.
- Professionals will be able to access reliable information systematically, rather than relying on memory or familiar but less reliable sources.
- Information Prescriptions provide rigour, consistency and breadth of information provision, resulting in high quality, tailored information, drawn from accredited information sources.
- Information can be systematically updated, and the new information passed on to 'Information Prescriptions recipients.
- Information Prescriptions may save time, by reducing the need for subsequent lengthy discussions with professionals.
- Information Prescriptions will help to addresses health inequalities so long as local agencies are willing to work more closely together to provide a co-ordinated service.
'Information Prescriptions are there to provide information to people, especially at the time of new diagnoses. Any information that you need to help you with your long-term condition can only be beneficial.'
Some of the anticipated outcomes noted by the pilot sites have included:
- Earlier diagnosis
- Reductions in repeat consultation and re-admittance
- Patients able to lead healthier, more independent lives where they actively participate in decisions about their care and support
- Increase in the number of patients taking their medicines or undergoing treatment at the times agreed
- Reductions in prescribing levels for specialised drugs
- Reduced instances of stress, anxiety and confusion
Encourages increased partnership working
'It will help to ensure that everybody is doing the same thing and that we've all got access to the same information.'
- The process of setting up and delivering information prescribing builds partnerships across the statutory and voluntary sectors. This increases professionals understanding of different service areas and gives them the capacity to offer a more holistic service to users.
- The Information Prescriptions initiative will improve the quality of information for people with long-term conditions among non-specialist services, particularly those run by GPs and community teams.
"A source of personalised information that lays out clearly and simply the salient points about an individual’s consultation with a healthcare professional about their diagnosis, treatment and/or care plan and points the way to other relevant sources of high-quality information and support. It is designed to improve the dialogue between patients and health professionals and enhance the valuable face-to-face time within consultations"