Patient activation

People’s ability to manage their own health and wellbeing

‘Patient activation’ describes the knowledge, skills and confidence a person has in managing their own health and care. Evidence shows that when people are supported to become more activated, they benefit from better health outcomes, improved experiences of care and fewer unplanned care admissions.

Patient activation is of particular importance to the 15 million people living with long-term conditions (LTCs) who rely, more than most, on NHS services. By understanding people’s activation levels, the NHS can support those people with LTCs in ways appropriate to their individual needs. The Patient Activation Measure (PAM) is a tool that enables healthcare professionals to understand a patient’s activation level, or their level of knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their LTC.

The NHS Five Year Forward View set out a central ambition for the NHS to become better at helping people to manage their own health. To meet this commitment, NHS England has established a Supported Self care programme to scale-up support for people living with LTCs to manage and make decisions about their own health and wellbeing. Patient Activation is a core enabler for this programme.

More information about NHS England’s vision can be found in our Patient Activation narrative.

As part of this, key NHS change programmes including new care model vanguards and integrated personal commissioning demonstrator sites, CCGs and other organisations applied for access to Patient Activation licences in May 2016. Successful organisations are using PAM to understand the activation level of their local population and tailor their services according to individuals’ needs, thus helping them lead better lives at a lower cost to the system. Find out more about the organisations that were successful in securing PAM licences here.

From 2014, NHS England has been working with partners to understand how patient activation can lead to more person-centred and personalised care across the NHS. A Learning Set of six organisations has been implementing projects using PAM and finding ways to support people to become more involved in their health and care. Its evaluation focuses on practical lessons and points to consider for others interested in using PAM in their local areas. More information, including the evaluation report and case studies can be found on the Learning Set page.

In her blog post, Dr Karen Eastman, a GP and Clinical Commissioner at Horsham & Mid Sussex CCG, explains how their Tailored Health Coaching service is helping them understand people’s skills, knowledge and confidence to deliver more personalised, person-centred care.

You can find out more about Patient Activation and the PAM in our Frequently Asked Questions and in the King’s Fund ‘Supporting People to Manage their Health’ report.