This chapter will explore how it was that patient choice came to occupy a central position within health policy from the late 1990s onwards. Beginning with an exploration of the notion of choice in health prior to this period, the chapter will then go on to chart the rise of choice as a central objective of health policy under the New Labour government. The chapter suggests that although the notion of choice was present in earlier formulations of patient consumerism, the meaning and relative importance ascribed to choice changed in the late 1990s and early 2000s. A crucial shift took place that involved a move away from choice as something that was of importance to patients collectively and towards a focus on choice as an individual matter. Such a focus on the patient rather than patients undermined the position of patient-consumer organisations that aimed to represent patients as a group. Speaking for patients was more difficult when the individual was thought to be best at determining his or her own needs.
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