Patients, their families, carers and others are all having a say in the future of community healthcare for adults in east Kent.
Those who use the east Kent clinical services (medical and healthcare services) of Kent Community Health NHS Foundation Trust (KCHFT), voluntary groups and residents, are being asked for their views and input, with meetings being held every four to six weeks.
Initially, face-to-face group get-togethers were to be held in Thanet, with regular meetings also planned for Canterbury, Ashford, Dover/Deal and Folkestone, but because of COVID-19, there is now one virtual meeting for all the areas.
Moving to virtual sessions in June, has seen more people attending, with meetings previously attracting around five people. The first virtual session had 17 non-KCHFT attendees.
The meetings were the idea of Strategic Support Officer, Adult Clinical Services, Sam Leech and Local Clinical Resource Manager Annmarie Hirst.
Both have completed the trust’s five-day quality, service improvement and redesign practitioners course (QSIR) and wanted to put their newly learned skills into action.
They launched their quality improvement (QI) project in August last year (2019) with the aim of improving communication with patients.
Sam said: “We wanted people involved in decision-making and for them to understand why we do things the way we do. Many of the patients we see are vulnerable, housebound and elderly and we wanted to reach out to them and make sure they had an opportunity to get involved.
“There had previously been a patient engagement meeting in Thanet, but it tended to be people talking about their experiences and things that have happened in the past. We wanted to turn this around and to look ahead to the future.
“We welcomed along patients where things hadn’t gone so well, as well as those who’d had a good experience. They all have valuable input into how we can do things.
“We are now inviting some of these people to be on our steering boards and we hope to have some on our recruitment panels too.”
Each meeting has a topic, which the group decides beforehand, choosing something that is important to them. This topic is then taken out to patients in the community, who feedback to their nurse or healthcare professional if they do not want to, or cannot, attend a meeting.
Every session also has a guest speaker, who might talk about an improvement project, healthcare research or another subject.
The patient engagement group was set up through working with the trust’s Senior Engagement Manager Sharon Picken and Assistant Director for Participation and Involvement Sue Mitchell.
Sam said: “We wanted people who don’t normally get involved to come along. Our community nurses mention the group to people while they are out and about and caring for people in their own homes.’’
For their next virtual meet up, those attending have been given a mug, with a tea bag and biscuits inside and an invitation to join the group for a cuppa.
The improvement project is almost complete, with Sam and Annmarie now looking at measurements and data to record their success. Their project is on Life QI, the portal where all of the trust’s QI projects are logged. QI tools used included a driver diagram, which set out their plan of action.