The Patient Experience Team (PET) plays a key role in improving the experiences of patients and service users across health and social care in the Borough. The team seeks and gathers the views of service users, patients, and carers, and also talks to frontline staff, Service Managers, and Commissioners across the system to hear insights into what is working well and what might be improved. The views of providers and users of services are often the same, and this enables changes to be implemented more easily.
The team gathers qualitative feedback using a variety of methods which includes undertaking interviews with individuals and facilitating groups, conducting surveys, and collating feedback forms. Pre-pandemic, these methods were conducted predominantly face to face but have now moved to telephone and virtual platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams.
By engaging with patients, service users, and providers, empowers people to speak up and share their views on how well services are meeting needs, leading to a better understanding of the challenges faced and ways to address and improve services. This helps promote confidence that local voices are being heard and enables better trust and partnership working between service users and providers. The goal of the PE team is to listen to all views and devise recommendations for positive change, leading to improvement in services and a valuing of the experience and views of users and providers.
The team achieved much valuable feedback despite the challenges presented by the pandemic. Although opportunities for taking forward recommendations were somewhat delayed there are many improvements that were recommended that are being taken forward and will be useful in the event of another partial or total lockdown.
The work undertaken on the experience of those Shielding will enable building on best practices in the future to ensure the structures and systems that worked well can help patients be supported and connected in the future. Interviews with a sample of people who were Shielding revealed amongst other issues:
There was significant variation in the ways that patients received notification about advice to shield.
There was some confusion about the duration of shielding being advised, poor communication as to why it was regarded as safe to stop shielding without seeking clinical views, and a lack of further advice once cases began to rise again. There is a potential benefit in exploring communication strategies further and developing system-wide support and optimisation of resilience and self-care within clinically vulnerable groups should COVID remain a potential risk.
The digital divide motivated the PE team to write a paper on the issues and challenges associated with using remote ways of communicating and the implications for obtaining feedback from as wide a group as possible. This was raised and discussed across the Patient/Carer and User Experience Leads monthly meeting to encourage shared learning, and suggestions emerged to address some of the resulting inequalities, restrictions, and impact. It was concluded that while the use of digital media by clinical teams can offer emotional support as well as an extra layer of assessment and reassurance when compared to a non-visual telephone assessment, there are issues that make face-to-face contact more effective in many circumstances, including building trust and rapport when obtaining feedback on services.
Virtual working enabled frequent team meetings to take place and a strategy for performing and delivering quality feedback was devised and implemented.
Virtual Outreach: the team networked with service providers via various platforms, attending online forums, meetings, and coffee mornings. This helped maintain trust, understanding, and engagement.
Skilling up: The team familiarised themselves with relevant apps and software and approached and tailored communication with service users in ways that suited them, including email, landline, and mobile telephone calls, Facetime, Zoom, and Teams.
Flexibility: The team was flexible in terms of their availability to enable and offer times to suit individual patients and carers and to attend events hosted by partners.
The Review of support for informal carers is underway, and carer and service providers’ feedback to date has increased understanding of the challenges faced while reinforcing awareness of the often-hidden work that carers of all ages undertake. The team also talked with service providers and learned of some creative approaches to supporting people during the lockdown, such as at Russia Lane Day Centre which supports people with dementia. The team rerouted staff to support the cared-for person at home while the Centre was closed, providing diversionary activities in their familiar environment while the carer had a break. This model can offer a valuable approach that could be adopted should there be any future lockdowns.
The vaccine rollout provided opportunities for two of our team to support the process, guiding and reassuring patients while gathering direct feedback which helped the teams to understand views and experiences including anxieties which in turn helped to inform the provision of appropriate approaches, information, and support.
The image below is of our first face-to-face meeting held in Victoria Park.