Patients as partners

Philippa Hedley-TakharPippa Hedley-Takhar
Head of Investment and Partnerships

One of the core aims of the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN is to “create and harness a strong, purposeful partnership between patients, health services, industry, and academia” to support efficiencies and improve patient experience in the healthcare system. All of these partners bring different expertise and contributions to the conversation about future healthcare delivery however it is essential to recognise that all are of equal value and their inclusion is imperative for successful collaborative working and co-design of services.

Last week I was delighted to be involved in an event where the entire focus was on the importance of listening to patients and involving them in decisions about how we shape our future services.

Patients as Partners, co-hosted by the dynamic team at Recovery Enterprises, the NHS Confederation and Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust, and sponsored by the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN and Devices for Dignity, was a learning event in Sheffield to explore together how to create the conditions where genuine partnerships of trust, shared purpose and responsibility can be built across health and social care with people who have significant experience of being a patient and/or using services who are motivated to lead change and improve lives.

Along with participants in health and social care leadership roles from across the region, it was a privilege to listen to the ‘expert patients’ in the room as they shared their very personal experiences and opinions as not only service users but also service leaders and influencers. As one workshop leader said ‘I found out where the power was and I joined the conversation. I can learn from them and they can learn from me.

I was particularly interested in exploring how our work at the Yorkshire & Humber AHSN within digital health and wellbeing is contributing to the shape of future models of care and what our organisation can do to engage with and learn from the thought leaders and patient partners in the room to enhance our projects going forward.

The key themes which emerged through workshop participation and conversation throughout the day, that I was asked to summarise in my key reflections, were about power and control (where feelings of empowerment can be lost and regained through developing new cultures and expectations of care); that nobody is the ‘expert’ as there is always scope to learn more; the importance of language in order to communicate effectively between people providing and receiving care; the power of peer support (and how social media has and will have a powerful role to play here); and recognition that needs have changed so systems will need to change – for example the relationship between patient and healthcare professional evolving from being transactional (needing to be ‘fixed’ and responsibility to ‘fix’) to more collaborative.

I took a lot of learning away from the event and have been inspired to continue to find effective ways of working with patient groups and improving communication with them. It is really important that we keep listening and learning and encouraging people to share their experiences. I’m also pleased that this is only the start of this important engagement programme and part of the NHS Confederation’s series of events leading to the launch of a Patient Leaders’ Forum in June. Online feedback from the event indicated that involving patients in shaping future plans is creating significant momentum with over two million Twitter impressions and almost 160 online participants contributing to the debate.

As Rob Webster, Chief Executive of NHS Confederation, said at the outset of the day ‘we need to see people as assets not issues.’

Yorkshire & Humber AHSN is committed to engaging with patients to ensure their views are reflected in our work around digital health and wellbeing. For more information about our work with Patients as partners click here