Person-centred care is at the core of a value-based health system. Its transformative potential is to enable and support key policy, planning and service developments across the system even when these go against the self-interest of individual major players. It offers a potent test for decision makers at all levels. It demands responses that are multi-level, empirically grounded, expert-informed and data-driven that must converge on the singularity of individuals in the places that they live. This requires different approaches that recognise, respect and reconcile two necessary but constitutionally disparate perspectives: the bureaucratic, overtly decontextualised, top-down, policy and planning objectives of central governments and the formally complex, dynamic and contextualised experience of individuals in the system. Conflating the latter with the former can lead unwittingly to a pervasive and reductive form of quasi-Taylorism that nearly always creates waste at the expense of value. This has parallel application in the treatment domain where outcomes are non-randomly clustered and partitioned by socioeconomic status, amplifying unwarranted variation by place that is striking in its magnitude and heterogeneity. In this paper, we propose that a combination of (1) relevant, local and sophisticated data planning, collection and analysis systems, (2) more detailed person-centred service planning and delivery and (3) system accountability through co-design and transparent public reporting of health system performance in a manner that is understandable, relevant, and locally applicable are all essential in ensuring planned and provided care is most appropriate to more than merely the ‘average’ person for whom the current system is built. We argue that only through a greater appreciation of healthcare as a complex adaptive (eco)system, where context is everything, and then utilising planning, analysis and management methodologies that reflect this reality is the way to achieve genuine person-centred care.