Blog > Patient Opinion, CEO, James Munro talks about the impact publicly sharing patient experiences can have on creating possibilities of learning and open action


19
November

James Munro, CEO, Patient Opinion

Patient Opinion, CEO, James Munro talks about the impact publicly sharing patient experiences can have on creating possibilities of learning and open action

We need to keep exploring the extraordinary potential of the web to enable patients and carers to help improve the services they use

As they celebrate their 10th Birthday, James Munro, CEO of Patient Opinion; the UK’s most influential, independent platform for people to share their health and social care experiences, discusses the organisational journey so far. Touching on; what inspires him, stand out achievements to date, what’s next on the agenda and how they continue to work to support care improvement in the UK.

What is your role at Patient Opinion?
I started out, back in 2005, as director of research. I became chief executive when our founder, Paul Hodgkin, retired from Patient Opinion at the end of 2013. I’m also the tech guy – so I spend a lot of time digging into our code and data.

Describe a typical day in your working life?
It’s a balance of technical introversion and human extroversion (and I have a preference for introversion!). I lead a very hard-working team so it’s important to stay connected to what everyone is doing. Tricky issues come up every day. At the same time, it’s important to keep thinking about our mission and how we can do it better. That’s where the constant technical development comes in: we need to keep exploring the extraordinary potential of the web to enable patients and carers to help improve the services they use. We’re definitely not there yet. This is a long road.

“We need to keep exploring the extraordinary potential of the web to enable patients and carers to help improve the services they use.” 

How did you come to be a part of Patient Opinion?
I came from clinical medicine and health services research. After 30 years in and around the NHS, there was a sense that NHS change was driven by politicians, professions and press – but hardly ever by patients. It seemed that those with the most to gain or lose – and plenty of insightful experience to share – had the least voice in the system, and still do.

As the organisation celebrates its 10th birthday, what is your proudest achievement so far?
Well, I’m proud that we are still here after 10 years. That definitely hasn’t been easy. I’m proud we’ve been able to share the stories of so many people, including many who might otherwise be ignored: mental health service users, carers of people with dementia, young people, people with addiction problems.

“I’m proud that we are still here after 10 years. That definitely hasn’t been easy. And I’m proud that we’ve been able to share the stories of so many people, including many who might otherwise be ignored: mental health service users, carers of people with dementia, young people, people with addiction problems.”

Some of the stories on Patient Opinion are heart-rending in their intimacy, rawness and honesty. People who have been through very hard times. I’m proud we’re able to carry those stories into the health and care system and touch people with them.

How does Patient Opinion work to support care quality improvement and public empowerment?
The essence of Patient Opinion is that stories and responses are public. That’s important because we don’t necessarily know where the energy or insight for improvement might come from. Perhaps the provider will act on feedback – and perhaps they won’t. But others can, such as the commissioner, the regulator, patient groups, or specific members of staff or users of services. Anyone can be an agent for change.

So by making feedback and responses public, we create the possibilities of open learning and open action. For example, over 3,000 health care students are using stories from Patient Opinion in their courses. That’s a benefit which flows from the free donations of patients and carers.

“By making feedback and responses public, we create the possibilities of open learning and open action. For example, over 3,000 health care students are using stories from Patient Opinion in their courses. That’s a benefit which flows from the free donations of patients and carers.”

Are you aware of changes in care practices that have come about as a result of feedback on patient opinion?
There are hundreds of changes logged on Patient Opinion – often small, simple things which are not hard to fix, but make a difference to people experiences of a service. Signage, food, letters, leaflets, cleaning. Of course the bigger change, and the bigger prize, is a change in the culture of care. That’s hard to evidence, but some of the services using Patient Opinion at a full “therapeutic dose” tell us it is happening.

What inspires you to keep doing what you do?
We’re inspired daily by the stories people send us, and the commitment of many staff up and down the country to use these to really make a difference. For me, the energy of Patient Opinion comes from the people using it.

What are the most common issues that people share with you?
The biggest issue by far is communication – or the lack of it. Most often this is a matter of face-to-face communication, the way people speak, the unintentional hurt or confusion, a lack of warmth or understanding. This matters to us all, and it matters more when we are in pain, scared or desperate. Sometimes it is a matter of systems – like appointment systems – which don’t seem to work well: like asking someone to come to a clinic which no longer exists, or sending an appointment and a cancellation on the same day.

“The biggest issue by far is communication – or the lack of it. Most often this is a matter of face-to-face communication, the way people speak, the unintentional hurt or confusion, a lack of warmth or understanding. This matters to us all, and it matters more when we are in pain, scared or desperate.”

What are Patient Opinion’s goals over the next 12 months?
I think we have the basics of a good feedback system working now. It’s only taken us 10 years! But we need to go further in some important ways. First, we need to make it easier for a wider range of people to share their stories: that includes both young people, and people with cognitive impairments like dementia. We’ll be working on both fronts in 2016. Second, we need to be more confident that the stories people tell really can lead to learning and change. In part, that’s a matter of enabling more staff to be involved with Patient Opinion, and it’s also about building better tools for them to use. We update our online platform weekly with tweaks and fixes and new features – and we have plenty more ideas to come. So we’re excited about the year ahead!

 

To learn more about Patient Opinion, check out this blog on their website, charting their journey over the last 10 years.

Tags: Care quality, communication, Cultural Change, Health and Social Care, Involvement, Patient feedback, Patient Opinion.

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