Matthew Areskog, Patient and Public Empowerment Lead, joined Bristol Community Health just over a year ago to revamp our approach to engaging patients. As a result, we now focus more on how we engage with patients, and how we ensure they are empowered in a way that allows them to contribute to how we develop our services. We spent some time with him to find out more about his commitment to patient and local community empowerment.
The past year has been busy within the Patient and Public Empowerment Team. What is the biggest achievement over that time?
During the past year we have started to change the culture at Bristol Community Health by increasing our focus on the importance of patient experience through a real time patient feedback solution called Meridian. However, Meridian is just the tool we use to gather the feedback; the important part for me is ensuring our staff understand the significance of patient and public empowerment.
Our staff want to make a difference and touch the lives of our patients; it’s the reason they work in healthcare. That’s a big focus for us; how we measure, and improve patient experience and share and learn from the findings. We have begun to do this, and that is what I am most proud of.
What has been the most difficult part of your role so far?
We did have services that weren’t used to collecting and learning from patient feedback in a structured way; most services kept patient feedback in the form of cards but these weren’t recorded anywhere. We now have team managers who are sharing feedback in team meetings and I’m seeing tangible change in the form of service development and improvement. The change across the organisational is substantial, and a great example of the innovative nature of our staff.
You are planning your third engagement event; why should the local community keep attending these events?
Patients spend time coming to events, so I’m keen to show them what we are delivering as a result of their ideas. Organisations should share what they are doing regularly and broadly to build up trust with the community. I hope by sharing what we have achieved we are building trust with our patients and other stakeholders and delivering on the promises we made.
At our Voices in Health event, I want to see honest conversations about the good and the bad. We can always do better and improve, but we need the help of our patients to shape our work. We will be bringing people together from difference backgrounds who have different interests, to encourage lively debate, which is where we often find the best ideas!
What does the next 12 years hold for patient and public empowerment?
As an organisation, we are proud of the shift we have made to focus more on patient experience and engagement, because we think that is the right way to work. We will always work with the community to provide better healthcare services. Over the next 12 months, we will be delivering more of the strategy including hosting more focus groups with patients, implementing a patient leadership programme and working closely with our patients to develop a confident and vibrant Patient Community.
In the end, patients are the experts on the way services should be delivered; the human side of healthcare. And we want to empower them to share their ideas so we can do that better.