Rachel Power, Chief Executive of the Patients’ Association shared her passion about patient care in a racing pace keynote speech that reminded delegates how much there is still to do in so many fields in a never ending quest for improvements.
The association, she explained, was there to gather information from patients to enable it to speak to government about patient priorities and concerns. Using a variety of methods – for example a helpline which receives 4,000 calls a year, social media with 22,000 followers, focus groups, and the views of its own members – the association is able to say what’s working and what’s not, and to contribute to future developments like the NHS National Plan.
A new theme emerging is about how people can look after themselves better, and enhance their ability to improve their health. The association had taken part in recent meetings in Downing Street and argued that this was more than just an NHS issue and needed commitment on housing, welfare, education and public health as well. More support in the community was needed, she said, to keep people better at home for longer. “What we are hearing from our patients is that people want to be kept at home and in the locality as much as they can,” she said. Complaints still need to be handled more openly. “What people are saying is that when something has gone wrong the authorities should tell us and say sorry. But staff are nervous about saying they have got it wrong. There needs to be a learning culture.” Patients should be more involved in service design (“it’s not rocket science”) and services need to meet people’s needs as individuals, looking beyond the diagnosis to see the person. And if that means buying a fishing licence to help them get out of the house, why not? Rachel made the bold decision some years ago to make membership of the Patients Association free. “The aim is to have thousands of members and thousands of volunteers. We need grass roots engagement, we need to become passionate and to have a voice.” To contact the Patients Association go to patients-association.org.uk or call 020 8423 9111.