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Working with patients as partners


In 2013 with the publication of ‘Transforming Participation in Health and Care’ and the formation of the new NHS organisations, we considered how we could add value to the shift in approaches to patient participation. The new approach was clear, “NHS England will ensure that public, patient and carer voices are at the centre of our healthcare services, from planning to delivery. Every level of our commissioning system will be informed by insightful methods of listening to those who issue and care about our services” (NHS England 2013). There were models of patient engagement being developed in GP Practices and in NHS Trust Boards but the road to a patient becoming a partner was still long and complicated. 

The resent study proposed that the arts can help shift our health service culture to a person centred one by helping people understand narrative medicine, complexity, holism and all aspects of new models of care (NHS England 2019). They can also help develop a people-centred, positive and inclusive culture that engages, trains and inspires people to improve services (Lynch 2010). To help create such a culture the patient, the patient experience and the patient needs needed to be put centre stage.

The Intervention. How it works?

The idea was to create new plays (patient narratives and new public narratives) that would be heard by other patients, health professionals and policy makers. The plays address burning health and care issues, often very difficult to talk about in families, in surgeries or in Parliament. 

Thanks to small seed-corn funding, also from Thames Valley and Wessex Leadership Academy, the scripts were developed with charities and community groups, using the words of service users and patients, and then tested with local communities between 2015 and 2018. 

Since then, additional match funding from Arts Council and Local Councils has allowed the shows to be performed in church halls, libraries and theatres across the area. Each play has a question and answer session that can be hosted by the play writer, appropriate charities, support groups, local clinicians or the Leadership Academy linchpin. 

The attendance fee for the plays is on a donation basis only which allows all members of the community to participate.  

Evaluation of this initiative is ongoing through feedback on plays and follow up evaluation of longer-term impact on audience actions. 

Thames Valley and Wessex Leadership Academy has supported this pilot project by providing expertise on priority subjects to consider, clinical content of the plays and attendance at question and answers sessions. The Academy also contributed to the development of community connections, inclusion in professional education and evaluation of the pilot. 

Click here to find out more about gthe key themes addressed through plays and what will happen next. 

Listen to Professor Marion Lynch RN RMN, Deputy Medical Director NHS ENGLAND South, who leads on this project, speak on BBC radio about the project and the latest plays. (As the link takes you to the full show, for the interview go to 1hr 8 min to start the interview).