Background Patient or person centred care is widely accepted as the philosophy and practice that underpins quality care. An examination of the Australian National Chronic Disease Strategy and literature in the field highlights assumptions about the self-manager as patient and a focus on clinical settings. Objective and Conclusion This paper considers patient or person centred care in the light of empowerment as it is understood in the health promotion charters first established in Alma Ata in 1977. We argue that patient or person centred care can be reconfigured within a social justice and rights framework and that doing so supports the creation of conditions for well-being in the broader context, one that impacts strongly on individuals. These arguments have broader implications for the practice of patient centred care as it occurs between patient and health professional and for creating shared responsibility for management of the self. It also has implications for those who manage their health outside of the health sector.