Patient Experience Network Part 2 – organisational highlights so far and the future

In part two of our discussion with Ruth Evans, founder of Patient Experience Network and PEN National Awards, we explore the organisational highlights so far and plans for the future

What have been some of your organisational achievements/highlights so far?

I love the fact that someone can take away an idea from one year’s event, implement their own initiative the next and potentially showcase it at PEN the following year – that to me is brilliant.

We have done so much, it’s hard to pick just one! A real highlight for me was being connected to Adam Bojelian, the paralysed schoolboy who painstakingly composed poems, letter by letter through blinking, who tragically died last month. We featured one of his beautiful poems at this year’s awards, and it rendered most of the audience speechless. Learning about his story and “meeting and spending time with him” on twitter really touched me and highlighted the effect patient experience can have on people’s lives.

We are very proud to have also been asked to write a number of reports, one of which is about children and family experiences with long term ventilation. It was a very tough task, but such a privilege to be given the opportunity to understand what works well in this area, what doesn’t and then how to improve their experience – Why shouldn’t they have a fulfilling and full life? How can we make life better for them and their families?

“I love the fact that someone can take away an idea from one year’s event, implement their own initiative the next and potentially showcase it at PEN the following year – that to me is brilliant.”

What’s been the most inspirational story/case study you have seen?

A personal favourite has to be Ellen’s Glen House, or as I call them the lovely ladies of Lothian. A group of healthcare assistants, who self-funded and implemented an initiative on a geriatric ward, to “make the ward a home, and a person centred environment”.

They just wanted to change the environment of their care and make people feel more at home and comfortable and less like patients living on a hospital ward. They implemented lots of little changes such as curtains, cushions and painting the walls a brighter colour – small things that had a big impact and meant the world to their patients. They stick out in mind because they were committed to making the difference, despite health and safety challenges. And it paid off. When they analysed the impact of the environmental change, they had reduced the level of aggression and depression on the ward, purely through understanding it needed to be more homely and caring. Improving experience through the environment is common sense really, and yet not something many people have the time or resource to think of. Small changes go a long way, and potentially with just a lick of paint, you can get aggressive people, suddenly smiling again.

I also loved Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. They wanted to change the experience for the children, so they partnered with Everton Football Club to come into the ward and spend some time with the children. Again a simple idea, footballers swapping footballs for beanbags and having some one on one time with the patients, but it made all the difference. A fulfilling initiative that didn’t just make a difference to children and families on the ward but the footballers themselves. The club manager fed back that he never had a shortage of volunteers. One of those win-win situations!

Perhaps the most profound and powerful statement to come from an initiative so far was last year’s winner Liverpool Heart and Chest NHS Trust. They started an open visiting system for families, and introduced it by saying “we are the visitors in a patient’s life – not their families”. So powerful. And it makes you realise just how wrong we’ve got it as professionals. Families are thought of a hassle but they showed if you harness them they can actually make life easier for staff, helping with feeding and patient hygiene etc.

Another inspirational story was Ipswich Hospital. Their carer’s cabins campaign was a brilliant piece of work and Sally Ryan, also won a PEN award for Patient Experience Professional of the Year. What struck me about this trust was how much the accolade meant to them. Their CEO came for the presentation. Sally’s family and even patients all came along to celebrate her achievement. It was amazing to see how appreciated the award, and Sally was. And it just reinforced to me why PEN is so important.

Sometimes in life – particularly in healthcare, we forget the impact we are having. Praise goes a long way. They profoundly changed the experience of those patients and the appreciation for this effort was genuine and from the heart.

“Sometimes in life – particularly in healthcare, we forget the impact we are having. Praise goes a long way”

Stand out initiatives from 2014 awards

A big winner this year was Northumbria. They have supported us since our very first year. Something we are so thankful for. Any organisation who submitted in our first year was taking a risk, and really courageous and committed because we had no presence at all. Five years later they are still submitting year on year, and it shows how much PEN recognition means to them.

Any organisation that submits year after year is showing their commitment to staying on the improving experience treadmill. They understand they will never get to the end, but it’s the journey that is worth is. Constantly pushing the boundaries to better and better.

This year we also had a bigger turn out than ever before and I was overwhelmed by the number of entries, the pride taken in the work and the general willingness to share knowledge. People in healthcare are in it for the greater good and despite the pressure to make it competitive, no one is protectionist over their ideas; they are open to learning from and sharing learning with each other, so care in general can get better and better.

What’s next for PEN?

We are very excited about our partnership with Picker. To be working with a charity rooted in a steadfastly person centred approach and with such strikingly similar aims to PEN is fantastic. Picker’s international profile and significant impact and standing in the healthcare quality community will allow us to deliver on our promises to share our stories and learnings more effectively.

We are also working with NHS Improving Quality to write and share a winning principles report. In the past we have made submissions as available as we can via our website but this year we are going to try and distil that into winning principles, and really flesh out what makes these organisations a little different and allow them to be confident enough to not only submit to PEN but win! And how you can be too.

In addition to the awards programme we get involved with other events throughout the year. We also run master classes on patient experience improvement.

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Tags: Partnerships, Patient Experience Network Awards, PEN, Ruth Evans.

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