Person-centred care is a way of thinking and doing things that sees the people using health and social services as equal partners in planning, developing and monitoring care to make sure it meets their needs. This means putting people and their families at the centre of decisions and seeing them as experts, working alongside professionals to get the best outcome.

Person-centred care is not just about giving people whatever they want or providing information. It is about considering people’s desires, values, family situations, social circumstances and lifestyles; seeing the person as an individual, and working together to develop appropriate solutions.

Being compassionate, thinking about things from the person’s point of view and being respectful are all important. This might be shown through sharing decisions with patients and helping people manage their health, but person-centred care is not just about activities. It is as much about the way professionals and patients think about care and their relationships as the actual services available.

In the past, people were expected to fit in with the routines and practices that health and social services felt were most appropriate.4 But in order to be person-centred, services need to change to be more flexible to meet people’s needs in a manner that is best for them. This involves working with people and their families to find the best way to provide their care. This partnership working can occur on a one-to-one basis, where individual people take part in decisions about their health and care, or on a collective group basis whereby the public or patient groups are involved in decisions about the design and delivery of services.

The underlying philosophy is the same: it is about doing things with people, rather than ‘to’ them.

There is no one definition of person-centred care.5,6 People might also use terms such as patient-centred, family-centred, user-centred, individualised or personalised. Regardless of the terms used, a lot of research has looked into what matters to patients and how to provide person-centred care to make sure people have a good experience.

There are many different aspects of person-centred care, including:

  • respecting people’s values and putting people at the centre of care
  • taking into account people’s preferences and expressed needs
  • coordinating and integrating care
  • working together to make sure there is good communication, information and education
  • making sure people are physically comfortable and safe emotional support
  • involving family and friends
  • making sure there is continuity between and within services
  • and making sure people have access to appropriate care when they need it