Volunteers with learning disabilities quality checked GP practices in Swindon

Healthwatch Swindon have recently completed a report about nine quality checking visits made to GP practices and dental surgeries in Swindon. The visits were undertaken by supported volunteers with learning disabilities between August 2018 and April 2019.

According to NHS England, “Quality checking is where people with a learning disability, autism or both are employed to help us look at the quality of the services they use and tell us how we can make them better.

Healthwatch Swindon worked with Swindon Advocacy Movement to recruit and train volunteers and support them to undertake the visits.

Whilst all providers made some specific arrangements to meet the needs of people with learning disabilities or on the autistic spectrum there are common and consistent themes and recommendations for change or improvement in all the reports. Practices should bear in mind the requirement to make reasonable adjustments and the guidance available.

The volunteers made three main recommendations which were common to all the premises visited:

  • Improved physical access including parking arrangements and door opening.
  • Provision of easy read signage and information throughout – both inside and outside buildings.
  • Clarity of displayed information.

You can read the full report here.

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Health and Care – What’s YOUR opinion?


by Mike Bell, Public Involvement Facilitator, May 2019

I recently received an email inviting me to an event at Bristol City Hall entitled ‘Thinking big about online feedback’. It was one of those emails that had ‘cascaded’ through various channels and originated from an organisation I’d never heard of called Care Opinion.

Online platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and the recently launched hyvr all offer members of the public a chance to have their say about health and care in the UK. Within our public involvement team at People in Health West of England, we’ve debated the usefulness and effectiveness of these on many occasions. So, as City Hall is only a five minute walk from my desk and Care Opinion were offering refreshments I thought I’d go take a look.

Dazzling statistics

The first speaker was the CEO of Care Opinion, James Munro who you would expect to be enthusiastic, and he was. Dazzling us with statistics about numbers of users and success stories: over 343,000 stories told, over 9,600 staff listening, 100,000 visits every month with stories on Care Opinion viewed over 83 million times. Fifty or more trusts reporting a better than 95% response rate and, more importantly, the changes made to services as a result of people’s stories. The cynic in me was wondering about James’ maths by this point.

James was followed by the Director of Patient Centred Care (you might think of this as Complaints, PALS or Patient Experience) at Taunton and Somerset NHS Foundation Trust who was equally enthusiastic.  She said that, despite the fears of some staff about the potential for a barrage of complaints, most stories (about 67%) have been positive. Additionally, she added, the negative stories can be responded to quickly, by the most appropriate member of staff which means they rarely become “formal complaints” and everyone is happy.

Next was a lay board member of a London GP confederation made up of 43 surgeries who told a similar success story and by now, members of the audience representing patient experience teams in other trusts began joining in with more praise for Care Opinion.

This was the point where I surreptitiously took out my phone and Googled “Care Opinion” under the table. Once on the Care Opinion website I randomly searched “knee replacement surgery” and found hundreds of stories.  I was able to see at a glance which had been read and which hadn’t, as well as follow any responses by the various trusts.  I could also see where changes had indeed been made to services and where stories had been used as training tools. It seems some of the praise was justified, although there were stories about poor experiences which had neither been read nor responded to.

So, this is how it works

Go to the Care Opinion website (no need to log in) and tell your story about your health and care experience. Care Opinion then moderate it (to make sure it’s anonymous and doesn’t breach their guidelines). They then forward it to the relevant care staff so they can hear what you think. They may also pass the story to Healthwatch or NHS England if they think it’s something they need to hear about. If it’s positive, staff can share the story so their colleagues know they are doing things right. If it’s negative they can respond via the website which, in some cases, may lead to a change in the way things are done.

Someone once said “the greatest barrier to communication is the illusion that it has been achieved” and we see that all too often these days. Where once you would write a letter and hope for a reply within two or three weeks, we now expect immediate responses to texts, emails, WhatsApp messages and Tweets and crikey do we get angry when we don’t get it.

There are clearly examples of stories, good and bad, on Care Opinion that haven’t been responded to and I believe one or two trusts never respond (though you have to wonder why). However, there are plenty of examples on their website where real communication has certainly been achieved and where patients appear satisfied their voice has been listened to.

If you haven’t already heard of Care Opinion and you have a story, good or bad, about the health and care system, I suggest you give it a go.

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Patient voices are leading to improvements of Somerset’s adult safeguarding service

New feedback gathered by Healthwatch Somerset on the county’s Adult Safeguarding service will be used to improve it for the future.

Healthwatch Somerset is the county’s independent health and social care champion. They listen to what people like about local health and care services, and what could be improved. Better communication through the safeguarding process and clearer information on staying safe in the future were just some of the recommendations made by families, carers and those who have been using the Somerset Adult Safeguarding service.

The Somerset Adults Safeguarding service, which protects an adult’s right to live free from abuse and neglect, dealt with 1,830 concerns in 2017/18 but only received feedback from six people.

Somerset County Council, who run the service, approached Healthwatch Somerset to help develop a new way of improving the service using the voice of the people who use it.

Emily Taylor, Manager of Healthwatch Somerset, said: “We worked closely with the Adult Safeguarding Team to design a questionnaire and considered an approach that would be effective but also deliverable by the team going forward.

“Our volunteers contacted people who had been through the safeguarding process. Several respondents said that they did not always know what was happening throughout the enquiry and that they were not being asked their opinion on what they wanted to happen.

“We recommend key questions are asked and recorded throughout the enquiry. This would help to check people’s understanding of what’s happening and their feelings about their level of involvement in the enquiry.”

Emily continued: “Half of respondents said that they either didn’t get any information or would have liked more information about staying safe in the future. We recommend that key agencies review the information made available to adults at risk and their advocates about how to stay safe.”

A spokesperson for Somerset Adult Safeguarding Service added: “As a service we thank Healthwatch Somerset for their support and enthusiasm in their undertaking of this pilot, the findings have far exceeded our original expectations.

“We will actively work towards enhancing service user engagement into the safeguarding process to ensure their voice is heard.”

You can read the full findings in their report Evaluation of Somerset Safeguarding Service: User Feedback Process.

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New digital health training well received

On 28 March 2019 People in Health West of England and Bristol Health Partners ran a new training session for patients and public contributors to learn about digital health and use of data.

The workshop gave an overview of how digital technology and data are being used in health and care and what this means for patients. Participants were introduced to the concepts by local speakers and had the opportunity to share their thoughts through interactive games and discussions.

The aim was for participants to be better informed to contribute to conversations on data and digital service design and development. Feedback from the day was really positive with all respondents rating the training as either ‘very good‘ or ‘good‘ in improving knowledge of digital health and uses of data. You can read more detailed feedback in the report below.

“Thanks for making it understandable for non-technical people”

“Invigorating, stimulating, exciting day; thank you”

As far as we know, it is the first training of its kind in the UK. The workshop was designed by John Kellas (Community Innovation and Engagement Consultant working with Bristol Health Partners) in collaboration with a design and facilitation team. The team are planning to run a second session in the Autumn and publish a resource pack to help others run similar sessions across the country.

Olly Watson, Senior Project Manager at Bristol Health Partners has produced a report from the first pilot session which you can read here.

If you are involved in work to increase the patient and public voice in digital health and data initiatives, do get in touch at hello@bristolhealthpartners.org.uk or enquiries@phwe.org.uk

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Do you want to share your experience of health or care services?

Care Opinion is a place where you can share your experience of health or care services, and help make them better for everyone.

Using a simple online form you can share your story. It could be a story about you, or someone close to you. You can say what happened, what was good, and what could have been better.

Your story may get published and shared with staff in the services who need to see it. You can also see other people’s stories and see how stories are leading to change.

Care Opinion think that by sharing honest experiences of care, we learn to see the world differently. Working together, we can all help make care better.

They are a non-profit organisation, funded mainly through subscriptions from health and care organisations and have been sharing people’s experiences of health and care services online since 2005. They have built a national and international reputation for their innovative and value-led approach to online feedback.

Find out more on their website or from this short video

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The UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research is recruiting

University College London (UCL) are advertising for a Project Coordinator to join the Centre for Co-production in Health Research team. They are looking for someone interested in co-production, co-creation and health research who is keen to learn more. The role can be part time or full time and will be for 4 months initially with a hope to make the role longer term.

The deadline for applications is 11pm on Wednesday 1 May. Have a look at the job description here.

To find out more about this role and how to apply have a read of their latest blog. You do not need experience of having worked in a university to apply.

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Patient and public involvement at the COMBACTE General Assembly 2019

By Michele Kok, Research Associate in Public Health, University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol.

My research around patient and public involvement (PPI) is for COMBACTE, a European-funded private-public partnership between academia and the pharmaceutical industry. Each year, COMBACTE holds a General Assembly hosted in one of its European partner countries. This year it was held from 12-14 March in Bucharest, Romania. I love travelling and have never been to Romania, so was naturally very excited to be able to attend! In this blog post, I shall share my reflections on what I thought was a successful trip, and throw in a couple of pointers at the end for those planning to visit the city.

Some background

COMBACTE consists of four projects. PPI is part of COMBACTE-MAGNET (Combatting Bacterial Resistance in Europe – Molecules against Gram Negative Infections) Work Package 6i. One of our major outputs was a toolkit for involving patients and the public in antimicrobial medicines development research, which our team produced in collaboration with the Bristol-based PPI Panel for Antimicrobial Drugs between September 2016 and August 2018.

The COMBACTE General Assembly 2019 featured PPI in two sessions: a one-hour open workshop on Wednesday 13 March and a short talk in the specific COMBACTE-MAGNET General Assembly the following day.

Our workshop was well attended

‘Practical aspects of implementing PPI in antimicrobial medicines research’ was the title of our workshop aimed at promoting and supporting the use of the PPI toolkit. Participants were from various organisations and job roles, including principal investigators from industry and academia, and even the Chair of the European Forum for Good Clinical Practice.

In the spirit of collaboration, we asked interested participants to identify which stage of the antimicrobial medicines development lifecycle was most important and relevant to their own research ahead of the workshop. Their selections helped us plan the topics to focus on; PPI in research agenda-setting and clinical trials. Participants were engaged and raised useful questions for discussion. There was a sense of increased awareness and interest in PPI within COMBACTE.

This was similarly reflected in the response to Andy’s talk the next morning, where several key people wanted to know how he thought PPI could be embedded in COMBACTE-NET, and what could be done to increase patient awareness of the importance of antimicrobial research, to encourage patient involvement. COMBACTE-NET is the network responsible for generating innovative trial designs to facilitate the registration of novel antibacterial agents.

Final thoughts and tips

After years of persistence and hard work, our team was very pleased with the success of this year’s workshop and the raised profile of PPI within COMBACTE. There is more to be done to ensure PPI is embedded in antimicrobial research and to promote best practice, but I left the General Assembly with a feeling of personal satisfaction (and relief) at the work done so far.

I had extended my stay in Bucharest and over the next few days, learned so much about the interesting history of the city and country. I highly recommend free walking tours in any European city you visit. Besides famous places, they take you to ones you would never have discovered on your own and give you insights that only a local could. If, like me, you enjoy trying local traditional food, I recommend papanaşi, a Romanian dessert of fried doughnuts served with sour cream and mixed berry jam!



Michele at Primӑverii Palace

Selfie by the swimming pool in Casa Ceausescu (or Primӑverii Palace) – notice the mosaic!

If I’m fortunate enough to attend next year’s COMBACTE General Assembly, I shall be sure to share my reflections when I return. For now, keep calm and keep doing PPI!

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Implementing patient and public involvement in antimicrobial medicines research

On 13 March 2019, Andy Gibson, Associate Professor Patient and Public Involvement, and Michele Kok, Research Associate in Public Health at the University of the West of England, together with two colleagues from North Bristol NHS Trust, conducted an open patient and public involvement (PPI) workshop at the annual Combatting Antibiotic Resistance in Europe (COMBACTE), General Assembly held in Bucharest, Romania. COMBACTE is a multi-million pound, European-wide, public-private partnership designed to stimulate the development of new antimicrobial drugs.

This workshop was to promote and support the use of a toolkit and practical guide for involving patients and the public in antimicrobial medicines development research, which the team produced in collaboration with the PPI Panel for Antimicrobial Drugs as part of COMBACTE-MAGNET’s Work Package 6i.

The hour-long workshop was attended by 12 participants from a range of organisations and job roles, including principal investigators from industry and academia, and the Chair of the European Forum for Good Clinical Practice. The workshop focused on PPI in two specific stages of the antimicrobial medicines development lifecycle; research agenda-setting; and clinical trials. These were identified by participants ahead of the workshop as being topics most important and relevant to their own research.

The excellent attendance and engagement at the workshop were indicative of an increased awareness and interest in PPI within the COMBACTE consortium, and across Europe more generally. This was highly encouraging to the team and set the tone for Andy’s talk on PPI at the COMBACTE-MAGNET General Assembly the next morning.

Although the PPI toolkit focuses on antimicrobial medicines development research, its content is applicable to other areas of medicines development, and potentially to other areas of acute clinical research. To find out more about the toolkit or to arrange for a similar PPI workshop, please email andy.gibson@uwe.ac.uk or michele.kok@uwe.ac.uk


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Sandra Tweddell is Diabetes UK volunteer spotlight

Sandra Tweddell, Co-chair of the People in Health West of England (PHWE) operational group, has been put under the spotlight for her extensive volunteer work for Diabetes UK.

Sandra has been volunteering with Diabetes UK since November 2010. Having lived with Type 1 diabetes since 1961 she is very conscious of varying levels of diabetes care across the country. As a result, she wanted to work to ensure that people with diabetes receive the best possible care to enable them to understand and manage their condition. Moving to Bristol, she found no local support groups so was instrumental in developing the structure of the Bristol Diabetes Support Network, which included a Strategy group involving members of Bristol Clinical Commissioning Group and Bristol Community Health. This provided a forum for two-way communication of people’s experiences of diabetes care and developments in diabetes care.

We, too, have benefited from her tireless contributions, as Sandra has been a member of the PHWE Operational Group since 2016, and become the public contributor Co-Chair in November 2018.

Click here to read her full story on the Diabetes UK website.

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North Bristol NHS Trust are developing a device for rapid diagnosis of Urinary Tract Infection

Urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common and unpleasant problem affecting thousands of people. GPs and others in primary care often diagnose patients based on symptoms, as the current urine testing methods to look for bacteria and inflammation can be slow and unreliable. As a result, antibiotics are often prescribed before there is a confirmed diagnosis of UTI. This prescription of antibiotics can be harmful to the patient if there is no infection and also impacts the wider community due to increasing risk of antibiotic resistance.

North Bristol NHS Trust are developing a device that will test for UTI quickly, safely and reliably in GP surgeries to ensure the correct diagnosis and treatment for patients. To support this, they are running workshops with patients and key staff members in GP surgeries to understand how it will fit within current working practices, who the user of the device might be, and what design restraints it needs to have (such as size storage etc.)

A series of workshops will take place over the next 18 months, these will cover:

  • Understanding the context for the device, the user and design restraints
  • Providing feedback on prototypes of the device
  • Urine sample collection methods
  • Training and education for the final product.

North Bristol NHS Trust would like to invite GP’s, Practice Nurses, practice receptionists, pharmacists and any member of primary care with experience of dealing with UTI’s in primary care to attend as many workshops as you are able to.

During the workshop, you will be asked to provide your views and opinions and some of your experiences.

  • The first workshop will take place : 5 April between 9.30am and 2pm
  • The second workshop will take place 10 May between 9.30am and 1.30pm

Both workshops will take place in The Board Room, Health Technology Hub, University of West Of England, Frenchay, BS34 8QZ. Lunch and refreshments will be provided

More information can be found at https://www.nbt.nhs.uk/research-events or please contact Angelo Micciche on 0117 4149334 or Angelo.Micciche@nbt.nhs.uk

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