Research Report

Information for choice: what people need, prefer and use - Report for the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation programme



Wyke S, Entwistle V, France E, Hunt K, Jepson R, Thompson A & Ziebland SB (2011) Information for choice: what people need, prefer and use - Report for the National Institute for Health Research Service Delivery and Organisation programme. National Institute for Health Research. SDO Project, 08/1710/153. NIHR Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO), Southampton.

First paragraph: Choice is at the heart of all Government health policies (1-5). The SDO's scoping review of the evidence on patient choice in the NHS, commissioned in 2004, suggested that: people want information but not necessarily for making choices; that people facing complex treatment choices often prefer decisions to be made on their behalf by a well-informed and trusted health professional; that wanting the option of choosing a distant hospital for non urgent care is limited to those situations where there is a long wait for a local hospital and there is a history of poor quality care; that wealthy and better educated people are likely to benefit most from choice; and that there is little evidence that giving people more choice will, in itself, improve quality of care (6). It is recognised that information is pivotal to people's experience of choice and self-management; to make optimal choices with confidence and to build on their existing self-management strategies people need the right information, at the right time with right support to use it (7). Lord Darzi's Next Stage Review (8) made it clear that the English NHS was to be focused as: "an NHS that gives patients and the public more information and choice, works in partnership and has quality of care at its heart" (page 7) (our emphasis). SDO 08/1710/153 was commissioned in 2005. The brief called for research to understand the types of information that people take account of when making choices, the format of information that they prefer, and whether preferences vary systematically according to socio-economic status, ethnicity, gender and age. In responding to this brief we focused on two key types of information: 'general facts' and 'personal experience' information. By 'general facts' we mean research-based information about health care interventions and the risks and outcomes associated with them; medical knowledge that reflects consensus based on what has been observed among many patients/people; and other information that is widely accepted to be both reasonably reliable and fairly broadly applicable (e.g. statements of legal requirement or policy). By 'personal experience' information we mean information about the experiences of particular individuals, as communicated by themselves or others.

Title of seriesSDO Project
Number in series08/1710/153
Publication date31/01/2011
PublisherNIHR Service Delivery and Organisation (SDO), Southampton
Publisher URL…1710-153_V01.pdf

People (2)


Professor Emma France

Professor Emma France

Associate Professor, Health Sciences Stirling

Professor Kate Hunt

Professor Kate Hunt

Professor, Institute for Social Marketing