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We’re finally hearing how vital it is to listen to patients, says Dr Katherine Rake OBE

17/09/2013

The importance of listening to patients has now emerged as a key recommendation from a series of reports. In fact, you would struggle to find an issue on which there is more heartfelt agreement.

The Keogh Review found that its focus groups with patients and staff were “the single most powerful aspect of the review process.” A chair of one of the review panels passionately explained that, alongside the hefty data packs and clinical assessment, the process of sitting in a room with patients and asking “how is it for you?” gave a unique insight into not only the delivery of care but the culture of the hospital under review too. What is frequently labelled as ‘soft intelligence’ turned out to be some of the sharpest insight into achievements and failure of these hospitals.

Take a moment to think this through. It should come as no surprise that patients hold powerful insight; being on the receiving end of care gives them, and their families, a unique insight into health practice. They will notice the daily fabric of health provision. They care not just about what is done but how it is done, and as such, have a feel for the culture of an institution and its clinical outcomes.

And just when you thought you didn’t need anymore convincing, along comes Don Berwick’s recent report, which calls for a revolution in the way the NHS engages with patients. He argues that there is a need now to move beyond token engagement to a deeper dialogue with patients and their families. While collecting patients’ views and experiences is critical, Berwick argues that patient engagement must go further. He calls for an approach that sees patients as equal partners in their care as well as part of the governance and stewardship of the NHS. More

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