We are up for two awards this month, and both are because of our work on patient-controlled records. One of them needs your vote, but before you jump ahead and do the deed, I wanted to tell you about the other one: UnLtd’s Big Venture Challenge.
We are down to the final 42, and 25 of us will win a £25,000 grant, with up to £125,000 in grant funding to match investment. We are really proud to have made it so far, out of over 600 social enterprises across the UK. Today I got to hear why they liked us so much: it is because of the big idea that we represent of patients being in control of their records.
The analogy we gave them was with Braille. The inventor of Braille – Mr Louis Braille – was blind. He went to a school for blind people in France, the first in the world, where the students learned to read wooden blocks using their fingers. This was a great advancement on not being able to read, but the text was limited and expensive, and the students could not write.
But Why would the students want to write? asked the teachers. We will happily write for them. And indeed they gladly wrote down the text of the letters that students dictated for sending home to their parents.
Mr Braille wanted to write. He heard about soldiers who needed to read in the dark of the battlefield, who had to avoid using light so as not to attract shots from the enemy. The soldiers wrote letters using needle holes in paper. Braille was inspired and invented the whole alphabet for blind people.
The rest is history, but only after the school banned the students from using the new language, and the students rioted. Change is always hard. But this change meant that blind people gained dignity and independence. They were able to have jobs and support themselves rather than live off charity and be a burden to the state.
And so we think patients’ lives will be transformed when they have control over their records. Do not listen to those who think that access is enough, that merely reading a record and asking the doctor to write in it will suffice. Patients need the dignity and independence of records that they control. And all of society will benefit when they do.
So now I ask you to join me: will you please vote for us in the Department of Health’s Ideas for a New Health App competition?