Every industry and profession is awash with its own shorthand often in the form of acronyms; the health service is no different.

Since becoming deeply involved with the service – now as an employee and a service user - I have become very aware that it’s not easy for the patients and public to be fully engaged with the clinicians treating them. Because of a number of initiatives that the NHS has been working on over the last few years in particular, patient engagement, involvement and empowerment is being ramped up. This is where it has been a privilege for me to be involved.

I should like to give an example or two of those initiatives and how as a patient – with family and friends too – we can become much more involved in our care management. That’s not to say the NHS is passing the buck for patients to look after themselves, but more to have a shared approach in decisions about care management. Shared Decision Making (SDM), using Decision Support Tools (DST) for a more Personalised Care (PC) approach is most certainly the way forward in my considered opinion. So, shorthand has crept in already; SDM, DST etc; but it does all mean something positive.

As far back as 2016, a national programme known as GIRFT – Getting It Right First Time – was designed to improve the care and treatment of patients. The primary focus of GIRFT involves reviewing services, benchmarking against best practice and using data-driven evidence.

If I may inject my opinion here, again, it should not be just the service looking at itself. Patients and public can – and are encouraged to – get more deeply involved in service design, service transformation and contribute to supported self-management. This is where a recent series of resources – decision support tools via NHS England - have been designed and published to help promote a more personalised care approach, while giving patients a greater opportunity to share in the decisions being made about their care.

A number of phrases and sayings can also come into focus to reinforce the extent to which service providers are encouraging service users to, effectively join forces. One such saying – “no decision about me, without me” – is a shared decision making approach. Another, and as important is “what matters to you”, rather than “what’s the matter with you” when the patient/clinician conversation starts.

Having access to lots of information can be quite daunting for patients, but having an appointment when there is so much to take in and so many questions to ask is equally daunting for most of us. Information overload is probably something that puts most people off getting prepared for their appointment, whether it’s the first one after referral from the GP to a specialist practitioner or a follow up to check on progress. I have found it is far less intimidating when I know my clinician is not only going to be asking me questions, but is very happy for me to ask questions too.

Yet again, phrases, sayings and resources are available to help get through those daunting times.

As part of personalised care and shared decision making I would suggest remembering the BRAN shorthand when chatting to the clinician.

· What are the Benefits (from the treatment option being discussed)?

· What are the Risks?

· What are the Alternatives?

· What if I do Nothing?

To go even further and to make use of the decision support tools referred to earlier, for greater understanding and to get deeply involved in shared decision making with your clinicians I suggest taking a look at the latest versions. Not every condition or ailment is catered for at the moment in the e-resource bank, but as this is a musculoskeletal (MSK) blog I have included links to MSK editions.

Some of you will know I have a personal mantra – wearing my patient hat – and that is ‘If we knew more, we’d do more’.

With so many resources and service providers with an appetite to engage and involve patients we can get to know more and do more to self-manage.

So – SDM + DST = PC which in turn = improved patient experience and that is at the centre of engagement and involvement agenda.