People Powered Health could save the NHS £4.4bn a year

Involving patients, their families and communities in the management of long term conditions could lead to better health outcomes and savings to the NHS, show Nesta findings.

The NHS in England could save at least £4.4bn1 a year if it adopts innovations that involve patients, their families and communities in the proven management of long term health conditions. The findings from the two year People Powered Health programme led by Nesta, the UK’s innovation foundation, involved teams from hospitals, GPs practices, community organisations and patients groups across England. 

The People Powered Health programme looked at innovations that have been developed over many years – from peer support networks to expert patient groups, doctors prescribing exercise to group consultations and timebanking. The programme asked what would happen if these became a standard part of long term condition management.

Working with front line health practitioners, community organisations, patients and their families, Nesta has generated recommendations grounded in practical experience and backed up by a robust analysis of research in the UK and internationally. 

A third of the UK population currently lives with a long term condition, like diabetes, heart disease or mental health problems, accounting for half of GP appointments and two thirds of outpatient appointments2.  Long term conditions are one of the biggest challenges facing global health systems, which were originally designed to deliver care for acute and infectious disease, not manage chronic conditions that can’t be cured by drugs or surgery.

The People Powered Health approach: 

  • Mobilises people and recognises personal strengths as well as family, friends, communities and peer networks that can work alongside health professionals.
  • Redefines the relationship between patients and health care professionals focusing on the needs and aspirations of patients, but expects more from the relationships.
  • Blurs the artificial boundaries between health, public health and social care, and between formal and informal support for patients.

In the People Powered Health: health for people, by people, with people report published today, Nesta and the Innovation Unit argue for widespread changes to the way that patients are involved in shaping their own care and the services that are commissioned to support them.  At a time of change for health services in England, the report argues that there is an unparalleled opportunity to implement this approach to managing long term health conditions at scale. 

In a second report also published today, The business case for People Powered Health, Nesta describes the specific investments required to create services with a People Powered Health approach based on a literature review of studies.

Halima Khan, director of Nesta’s Public Services Lab, explains, “The People Powered Health approach holds the key to the long term financial sustainability of the health system – the potential cost savings are very significant and could have a major impact on the quality of life for people with long term conditions.  This approach challenges the traditional roles of patients and professionals so that people are supported to take more control of their own health.  Ultimately, people do more with and for each other and with health services to stop being about institutions and focus on individuals and communities.” 

Paul Corrigan, senior associate at the Innovation Unit, comments, “People Powered Health is about creating new sources of value for the NHS. Patients are valuable assets and, with the right support, they can become develop more control over their health – this is good for them and good for the NHS”.

Over the next few weeks, Nesta will be publishing a series of guides for practitioners on how to implement the People Powered Health approach, including how GPs can use social prescribing to get patients engaged in exercise and reduce isolation, the role of peer support to help people living with long term health conditions and how commissioning of health services needs to change to ensure a wider range of services than drugs and medical procedures. These will be available at

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