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Doing it With Us, Not For Us…

“Taking account of the perspectives of patients and their families is crucial to articulating the reality and identifying the gaps between patient safety measures possible and the levels of safety being experienced by patients.”

Building a Culture of Patient Safety, July 2008

Staff Guide to Patient and Public Participation, Cork University Hospital

In the last two and a half years, I have attended many health conferences – coming face to face with some of the most innovative people & solutions in health care and more often than not, finding myself wanting to tell every patient in the country about how much ”good stuff” actually goes on in our health services! On one occasion, I actually couldn’t hold back this same excitement and without thinking, I took the microphone and addressed a 500+ room full of health care professionals at the National Patient Conference to tell them how motivated I was about their work and how I wished the media shared these positive stories with patients across the country, instead of just the negative ones.

Obviously I don’t make a habit of doing this (as afterwards I was shaking with exhilaration) but I still get the same feelings when I am invited to sit in on new initiatives to give my view as a patient. A lot of the time sharing is not always in the projects best interest until later stages and so I have to sit tight…excited at the prospect of when patients would learn of them.

So you can imagine my delight when I was given the go ahead to share not just one, but two innovative patient safety initiatives happening in national hospitals across the regions. The first initiative was the launch at Tallaght Hospital of their Zero Harm Medication Initiative and which I felt very privileged to be able to talk at and then write about afterwards, which you can read here:

The second was when I got the news that I could also share what I learned from attending Cork University Hospital’s launch of the 2015 – 2018 “Doing it With Us, Not For Us” Strategy. Now I’m sure you think, sure the name of it says it all (and it does!) but I always think it’s good to put it into perspective as to how we, as patients, tend to actually practise this strategy already in our everyday lives, just in a different way.

Take myself for example. If you know me personally, you will know that my day to day opinions can vary vastly depending on the health professional or service myself or my children are using. Very often, I will share my experiences through phone calls to friends or family or through my selected charities “Private Patient Forums” to see if others in similar situations have experienced same. When I’ve had a particularly positive experience, I will endlessly promote the health care professional, the service or even the resource to anyone who I feel could benefit from it. But I’ve also recognised that when my reaction is the complete opposite – I tend to demote in the exact same manner – and all without even realising the impact my perspective of my personal experiences can have on others actions or reactions going forward.

So why are we having these conversations with everyone but our health care professional?

Why do we feel we can’t tell them how we’re feeling?

And how can change ever be implemented unless health care professionals know what the problems are? Upheavals

Some people have a preconception that “strategies” take a long time to roll out and that they need a whole cohort of people to make it work. But why should they? Any plan can be implemented straight away – it simply starts with one person just having a conversation with another. There is learning from every single conversation that is had between health professionals and patients. Just like when you pick up a phone and share how your day went with a family member, or when you update your status on a patient forum.

A patient’s opinion can shape others actions and decisions going forward.

The conversation needs to happen between all involved in a patients care and this is what the strategy aims to do – to have patients and health care professionals talk openly and honestly with one another about their care, their situations, and their fears. This strategy is being intended for the best interest of the patient, right now, not just the “future” of our health services. Identifying that this strategy aims to change the relationship and behaviours of both patient and professional, there will be a stage of evolution and revolution at times and the Staff Guidelines for Public and Patient Participation is an excellent resource for staff which provides practical means and toolkits to help them implement this strategy, in line with the work they already do, with the hope that engagement with patients can happen naturally, without force.

And so as I sat in the state of the art auditorium after reading through the guidelines, I though how excellent it was to have an auditorium for staff training in a public hospital. When I asked about how it got there I was informed it was designed in the mid 60’s and build in the 70’s and this got me thinking. Someone, some time ago, knew how importantly it was to always be thinking about the future. To be upskilling, training and re-educated if needed. And they valued this so much, that funds and time were put into its design. This proactive approach is exactly what is being done with the strategy and is being led by the same type of forward thinkers. Thankfully the Strategy has a strong leadership team and each of them represented their views and thoughts at the launch through –

Mr J.A. McNamara – CEO CUH Hospital Group

Ms. Celia Cronin – Clinical Governance Manager  CUH

Ms. Margaret Murphy, Patient Advocacy, External Lead Advisor WHO, PFPS

Mr Liam Woods – National Director Acute Hospitals – HSE

Mr Gerry O Dwyer – Group CEO South West Hospital Group

Ms June Boulger – National Lead for Patient and Public Participations Acute Hospital HSE

Each and every one of the speakers and health professionals in the room know the challenges they may be faced with along the way.

But if we don’t try we’ll never know.

We all have to work together, as patients and health professionals to make our lives the best they can be. Collaboration is key.

Because we all either want to get better, or to help someone get better.

Let’s all “Do it With Us, Not For Us”