We are all the patient experience

NHS England’s Director for Experience, Participation and Equalities marks the start of Experience of Care Week 2018:

The NHS sometimes feels like a world in itself and we are highly conscious of the pressures facing it.

Yet these are not unique and are also faced by many healthcare systems around the world.

For example, demand and acuity of healthcare are growing around the world and many systems are looking to prevent burnout and support staff to deliver rising expectations.  It’s often helpful, therefore, to engage with colleagues in other countries to share how we are addressing these challenges and also celebrate what is distinctive about the NHS.

Today is the perfect occasion to do this, as it marks the start of global Experience of Care Week, an annual initiative to inspire organisations to celebrate accomplishments and recognise and re-energise the staff who impact on patient experience every day, under the slogan ‘we are all the patient experience’.

I’m starting the week with a visit to Magnolia House at Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital, where specially trained staff meet with children, young people and families to have conversations about life-changing choices around palliative care and end of life.

The wonderful We Communities is laying on a strong and diverse programme of free webinars throughout the week, including ‘Observe and act’ led by Shropshire Community Trust; ‘Active listening’ by Healthwatch Essex; ‘How non-clinical staff contribute to patient experience’ by Care Opinion CIC and ‘What’s it like being a patient behind bars’ led by my Health Justice colleagues in NHS England East Midlands.

There are undoubtedly things the NHS can learn from other systems and providers but we should also be proud that on some issues the NHS is a world-leader and these webinars celebrate some of this work. Help make them a success and add your own perspectives by registering.​

Jason Wolf is the President of the global patient experience champion The Beryl Institute, which individuals and NHS organisations can join to access a range of networks, resources and research about this growing professional discipline.

On a recent visit to England, Jason observed that the opportunity to integrate care was an ambition on which the NHS was better placed than many comparable healthcare systems. Julia Holding from NHS Improvement and I will have the chance to explore this with Jason on Wednesday in a webex on global trends and key issues.

We will no doubt also be discussing the findings of the Beryl Institute’s 2018 Consumer Study, based on the insights of healthcare users across four continents.

Tiffany Christensen, a patient advocate and Vice-President for Innovation at Beryl (who tweets as @sickgirlspeaks)​ will also lead a webinar on Thursday on how different improvement tactics can meet organizational need.

Register for the Beryl programme.

An enjoyable feature of our relations with American friends and colleagues is that we almost speak the same language, but not quite. In the same way that we say ‘pavements’ and they say ‘sidewalks’, we in the NHS are badging the week Experience of Care Week and not Patient Experience Week. This reflects our intention to include the experiences of people who are not themselves patients, such as carers, and the recognition that our language needs to resonate for colleagues in social care as well as healthcare.

One of the things I most enjoy about Experience of Care Week is that it recognises and celebrates the contributions that all staff make to patient care and the different motivations that bring us to do the work we do. The message ‘we are all the patient experience’ says something important about the many contributions, some visible, others not, that make for an excellent experience of care.

I have seen this spirit at work over the last week as my dad has been in an acute ward at St Georges Hospital after a fall. This short video makes the point which for me lies at the heart of Experience of Care Week and is something that we know unites us as human beings, professionals, as a country and a global healthcare community: Please join in, celebrate and share your experiences and enjoy!

Dr Neil Churchill

Neil is Director for People and Communities at NHS England, having joined the NHS after a 25-year career in the voluntary sector. His work includes understanding people’s experiences of the NHS, involving people and communities in decision-making and leading change to improve the quality and equality of care. He has a particular focus on strengthening partnerships with unpaid carers, volunteers and the voluntary sector.

Neil has previously been a non-executive director for the NHS in the South of England, is a member of the Strategy Board for the Beryl Institute and Chair of Care for the Carers in East Sussex. He is himself an unpaid carer. Neil tweets as @neilgchurchill