Sep 14

What does REAL patient involvement look like in a Healthcare educational institution?

It’s high time for reflection and review. I have been leading the Experts by Experience group for a year now (with some brilliant colleagues!) and it’s high time I took a look at what the group has and hasn’t achieved over the last year and what it perhaps could achieve over the next year.

So, firstly, why a group in the first place?  I think the biggest reason is that previously the Faculty had a policy of running the good old one-off ‘focus group’ event when consulting with patients/service users. Whilst its very easy to claim ‘consultation’ with patients, it becomes very difficult to audit exactly what you did as a consequence of the consultation. Its almost as if changes were made because of ‘osmosis’!  You can keep repeating the focus groups but it is difficult to achieve continuity and usually no attempt is made to consult people between focus groups. These events quickly therefore become ‘snapshots’ of views and lack flexibility and insight created by ongoing relationships.  Impact on academics that were involved however appeared very positive. Thats why I thought of developing a more dynamic model by using a reference group that meets regularly with contact between meetings. The ‘Experts by Experience’ group was thus born. In order to avoid the potential problem of the same members appearing, the group consists of individuals who are prominent in the patient movement and organisations that represent patient groups. This ensures the membership remains dynamic.

So, what has the group achieved? I believe it has begun to achieve an identity of its own. Certainly more people are aware of the group now, even to the top of the organisation, which can only be a good thing. creating a unique identity. recent successes include members being invited to join Faculty module and even programme scrutiny panels. Early signs are that members are being made very welcome by academics and, importantly, feel they are playing an important part in the panels deliberations.  These are early days but the vibes are looking good. I am curious as to the long term impact of such involvement on the patients and the faculty staff, and of course the students. Watch this space!

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