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Looking for patient-focused service improvers? You may find them amongst the Allied Health Professions

Dawn Smith NHS Clinical Soft Intelligence Service (NHSCSI) 14 July 2015

Dawn Smith is a Healthcare Professionals Advisor at NHS Clinical Soft Intelligence Service (NHSCSI). In this blog she talks about patient-focused service improvement within the Allied Health Professions.


As someone passionate about patient centred improvement, I have been thinking about what we mean when we use the phrase.  Sometimes, it’s as though just saying it is enough to make services patient-centred.

At the NHS Confederation 2015, Alison Cameron, ‘From Patient Voice to Patient Leadership’  told delegates, “I used to time how long it would take them to say ‘We are putting the patient at the centre of everything we do.’… I’m rather sick of being put places.  If the conditions are right, I will be at the centre…”

Engaging with what matters to patients is at the core of what Allied Health Professions do when we work with patients on their goals and when we design bespoke interventions to help achieve those goals.  We often take for granted this focus on patients’ experience as ‘just doing my job’ and so it can happen under the radar in the organisations where we work.

This makes the skills and practice of AHPs a potentially untapped resource.  Membership Engagement Services’ case study ‘Making Sense and Making Use of Patient Experience Data’ offers the view that staff and Patient Experience teams can be too busy gathering data and compiling reports to use that insight  to improve services. It suggests that clinical teams could use their own knowledge of patient experience as part of their own improvement activity.

There are many examples of AHPs doing exactly this: with improvement activity flowing from their bespoke approach.  Two of these, given by Alison Shortman, Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership Trust and by Bernadette Kennedy, St. George’s University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are in the webinar, Integration in action: Breaking down boundaries. This was provided by the NHS Clinical Soft Intelligence Service.

In her story, Bernadette describes how people can make significant recovery in a short time through doing an activity that matters to them. She tells us of a gentleman in his late 50s who had recovered from a stroke, but had no activity in his upper limb.  He had not returned to work or leisure activities and had given up, believing he’d reached as good as he was going to get.  By creating a bespoke programme that centred on what this gentleman wanted – to get back into the swimming pool – and then building upon his achievement and his own motivation, he has now taken-up golf and started a return to work part time.

This and other attributes of the AHPs’ approach:  the natural engagement with partners from other agencies; a talent for communicating directly with the ‘service user’ and a drive to coordinate care across boundaries – are all valuable assets to meaningful, patient-focused improvement.  However, AHPs need to recognise these assets and promote our potential to enable the scaling-up of patient focused improvement.

Patient Experience Teams – if you’re looking for allies for the deployment of data in meaningful improvement: why not join forces with the AHPs?

NHS Executive teams – if you’re looking to close the gap between providing data for assurance and use of data to improve services: cast the searchlight over your organisation.  The AHPs may be your greatest allies.

AHPs – if you’re carrying-out patient-focused improvement: publish your data and share your learning across multi-professional networks.