Putting person-centred care into practice

Person-centred care is not just a change in ethos, it involves changes at every level from how services are planned and designed to how staff are trained and supported. 

Whether implementing a specific approach, such as shared decision making, or working to develop person-centred care more broadly, person-centred care needs to be embedded at three levels: 

  • Individual staff level:  Staff are supported to develop and use the skills and approaches that support person-centred care.
  • Team, service and organisational level:  Services use systems and processes that both facilitate staff to act in person-centred ways, and that respond to service users’ needs and preferences.  Person-centred approaches, such as self-management support, are embedded in care pathways.
  • Population level: The approaches that support person-centred care are embedded in care pathways through the planning and commissioning process. Pathways are co-designed and co-produced by a partnership between the people who use services and the people who provide them.

Using person-centred improvement approaches

There are some specific improvement approaches that are person-centred in themselves, and therefore support developing more person-centred approaches to how care is provided.  These include:

  • Experience-based co-design – a method for improving people’s experience of health care that involves gathering experiences of patients and staff and then bringing them together to develop services improvements. Find out more
  • Person and family-centred care – a quality improvement process that focuses on both the care processes and staff interactions with patients and their families.  It includes ‘shadowing’ patients, developing a shgared vision for the ideal patient experiences, and working through individual improvements.  Find out more
  • Working together for change – an eight-step process for co-producing change with people using services and harnessing the energy from that process for strategic planning, commissioning and service development.  Find out more about the process  
    Read a case study of how Cambridge University NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust used the process. 

There is already learning on how specific person-centred approaches, such as self-management support and shared decision making, can be implemented, as well as person-centred improvement processes that individuals, teams and organisations can use.

How to embed key approaches

The Health Foundation’s report Ideas into action: person-centred care in practice – what to consider when implementing shared decision making and self-management support sets out key lessons in how to embed these approaches in mainstream care:


The Health Foundation’s report Person-centred care: from ideas to action explores the learning from a number of shared decision making and self-management support programmes.  The report identifies and provides detail on the active ingredients within those programmes that support effective delivery of these approaches.