Christine Connelly, the Department of Health’s director general for informatics, is to become the national lead for patient empowerment and the publication of information on quality.

NHS chief executive David Nicholson has set out Connelly’s new role in a ten page letter to NHS chief executives, which outlines next steps in the implementation of the white paper ‘Equity and Excellence: Liberating the NHS’.

In his letter Nicholson says national, regional and local work needs to be done to drive patient empowerment and the publication of information on quality “with the same level of focus and energy as the work already in hand on commissioning and provision." 

A timeline accompanying the letter says the DH’s Information Strategy will be published next month, as will a publication on choice. Consultation on both publications will run until December.

Nicholson tells chief executives that the white paper reforms are aimed at empowering patients “with more choice, better information and more control over their care."

He adds that work on patient empowerment through choice and information should not be overlooked while the architectural changes to the NHS were implemented.

“We will not wait for all of the elements of the new system to be in place before seeking to provide more information to the public on quality and outcomes and further support patients in making informed choices about their care," he says.

Nicholson’s letter also tells NHS chief executives that GP practices should be given “time and space” to develop their plans to form GP commissioning consortia and that consortia should have the “maximum possible choice” of how they work and who works for them.

The letter says running costs will need to start and remain low and require “lean solutions, shared capacity and focussing of management effort on the areas of highest priority”.

In an accompanying FAQ document, the DH says the Operating Framework for 2011-12 will set out how resources will be released from the infrastructure and running costs of strategic health authorities and primary care trusts to provide running costs for consortia.

Nicholson also tells chief executives that it will be important to “sustain talent and capability” through the changes but adds: “I know that it is a time of personal and professional uncertainty for many of you around the country and I admire and appreciate your dedication and professionalism in those circumstances."

He adds that the DH wants to support current employees of SHAs and PCTs through the changes, treat them well and “where it is the right thing to do” support them in moving into new roles.