A key figure in the drive to get patients more involved in their own care has delivered a damning assessment of patient experience in the NHS.

Steven Laitner, the Department of Health’s national clinical lead for shared decision making, said: “In terms of patient experience we are pretty poor. We are far from [health secretary] Andrew Lansley’s vision of ‘no decision about me without me’.”

Speaking at a fringe session at the NHS Confederation conference, Dr Laitner, who is a GP, said “culture disruptors” were required to end the health service’s “paternalistic” culture.

“Choice is often doctor-led, not patient-led, as in the NHS we often suffer from institutional paternalism. But the patient is the greatest untapped resource in healthcare.

“What we need to do is get doctors off their pedestals and patients off their knees.”

The session heard examples of clinicians discussing treatments in separate rooms to patients, people arriving for outpatients appointments being given few instructions and a lack of digital or telephone engagement.

Sophia Christie, director of UKPrime and a former chief executive of Birmingham East and North Primary Care Trust, said the NHS was created in 1948 to deal with patients born in the era 1877-1921 and had changed insufficiently since then.

“If we want people to take responsibility for their health and act appropriately in terms of how and when they use services, we have to think in a way that resonates with the rest of their lives,” she said.

“Our time is running out - most of the infrastructure we inherited was designed to meet the needs of people born before 1921.”

Speaking to HSJ after the session, NHS Midlands and East policy and strategy director Steve Dunn, who has led an initiative to gauge whether people would recommend services to their friends and family, called for a shake-up in education for clinicians to ensure they dealt better with patients.

Dr Dunn said academic health science centres should lead the drive to “fundamentally tackle medical education”.