A policy analysis of the expert patient in the United Kingdom : self-care as an expression of pastoral power?
The rise in chronic illness and comorbidity in Western society has resulted in an increasing emphasis on self-care initiatives. In the United Kingdom this is exemplified by the Expert Patient policy. This paper discusses the Expert Patient initiative as an example of the State’s third way approach to public health. The extent to which this policy challenges conventional power relationships between professional and patient, and fosters equal partnership is examined. In particular, how expert is defined and whether a professional understanding of the term is reconcilable with a patient’s expertise is debated. The paper argues that the Expert Patient initiative is unlikely to reconstruct chronic illness and may further complicate the State’s responsibility in meeting the needs of those with chronic illness. Issues of power within self-care are explored to illuminate the policy, and this paper argues that the Expert Patient initiative is an example of Foucault’s notion of pastoral power. Although the Expert Patient policy focuses on the rights and responsibilities of those with chronic illness, this paper concludes that there is no corresponding strategy to challenge professionals’ assumptions toward those with chronic illness