Idea of the Month: Patients as partners, not just storytellers

| Anna Eaton

This September our Idea of the Month comes from David Gilbert. David is a Patient Director at Sussex MSK Partnership (Central) and has used mental health services in the past.

A month ago David wrote an honest and encouraging blog about how patient and carer partners are changing healthcare. Be sure to give it a read ASAP! It gave us lots of food for thought about the participation of patients and people in the delivery of services.

Patient and carer partners

In his blog, David wrote that as part of his role as Patient Director, he’s been developing a band of Patient and Carer Partners. What really stood out for us is that David highlights that these people aren’t just representatives. They are “collaborative leaders and partners whose role it is to be critical friends and insightful supporters who draw on their wisdom”.

“They are not there to ‘tell their stories’ merely to provide a compassion rush for professionals. They stay in the room for difficult conversations, warts n’all – this takes courage on both ‘sides’ to be open and vulnerable, for staff to ‘hang out their dirty linen in public’ – and deep trust”.

This is a reminder that though storytelling can be very important and powerful, patient involvement and collaboration can and must go further than this. Patients are vital to service delivery and design and need to be included and treated as equals to staff.  The band of Patient and Carer Partners David describes are able to do this.

Collaborative working

David explains how in Sussex projects have been co-designed and co-delivered with Patient and Carer Partners over the last two years. They have helped to improve processes, services and worked alongside staff, running workshops and away days.

David doesn’t suggest that it’s easy or simple. He is refreshingly honest about the challenges of partner working and the need to reflect on learning about the speed of projects and power imbalances. However, he explains how staff value the impact of partners and things are slowly changing. As more healthcare staff see the benefits of partner working, David is now having to manage demand for Patient and Carer Partners!

It’s definitely worth following David on Twitter to get his insights, poems and new blogs. Always a great read and very thought provoking.

Photo by Julia Caesar

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