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Improving mind and body care – a patient perspective

Comms Officer Henry Lockyer spoke with Mary Stirling [pictured], Mind & Body Expert Advisory Group member and Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust (Guy's and St Thomas') Patient Governor, to hear how the Mind & Body Quality Improvement Network (QIN) can benefit clinicians and patients.Mary stirling

The Mind & Body Expert Advisory Group helped develop the Mind & Body QIN by providing feedback based on lived experience of co-occurring mental and physical ill-health on the framework and during the pilot period. As part of this peer review process, Mary took on a role as a Lived Experience Peer Reviewer and provided a unique patient perspective on the QIN – she has explained below how the project can benefit both clinicians and patients:

What are the benefits of the quality improvement process for clinicians and patients?

The QIN pilot involved clinicians and managers from Guy’s and St Thomas’, King’s College Hospital (KCH), and South London and Maudsley (SLaM) NHS Foundation Trusts working together in partnership. It has involved a great deal of collaborative working and has given a chance for staff to learn a lot from each other and reflect on their ways of working. I believe that this scheme could benefit other NHS organisations throughout London and the rest of the country and even other charities and organisations unconnected with the NHS who provide services to support people’s mental and physical health.

It has also encouraged staff to reflect on how they could involve patients more in their own care. This, I believe is due to the fact that the quality improvement themes look at both what patients and staff think, and it just seems natural for them then to be equal partners in the care. When I was ill, I know that my husband, my GP, and I used to meet as a team to plan the way forward and this really helped everyone concerned.

What difference would patients see in terms of their care? How can the QIN help patients?

The QIN can encourage more joined up working between departments within a Trust and between Trusts so that this would benefit the patient. If mental health and physical health departments both talk to each other, meet regularly at multidisciplinary team meetings and share test results, this would mean that everyone feels part of a partnership and that patients do not have to endlessly repeat what has been going on with their health. Patients who have mental health concerns because of, or alongside their physical health difficulties, or vice versa can be assured that this will be considered and built into their care. This then can make the patient feel happier, save time and in the end improve outcomes.

Patients will also be more informed about their care, about the progress that is being made to help them, and the plans for their future care. This would then enable patients and carers to have more confidence in what is happening and help their mental health. For example, it would enable them to be calmer before an operation and could result in fewer missed appointments. The key is to create a general feeling of more collaborative working between patients and staff rather than an atmosphere of “them and us”. Patients should really be viewed as equal partners and with just as much knowledge of their various health concerns as the NHS staff.

What have you enjoyed about the pilot?

It has been an amazing experience taking part in the pilot. It has been a challenging time for everyone but particularly for NHS staff. I feel that I have really been an equal partner in the pilot and that my views are valued and taken into account just as much as everyone else’s. I have learnt an incredible amount about what goes on behind the scenes at Guy's and St Thomas', SLaM, and KCH.

I have been overawed both by the dedication of the staff in the various different departments and it has been truly heart-warming to listen to their passion, enthusiasm and dedication which shines through when they talk about their work and about how they work together. People are also not afraid to say where there is room for improvement. Sometimes, when we as peer reviewers were going to suggest their approach met the required standard, the team said that they would prefer it to be only classed as “partially met” to enable things to improve and to enable others in the Trust to realise what needed to be done. I feel that the other peer reviewers have become both my colleagues and my friends, and I have learnt a lot about them too. I feel truly privileged to have been given the opportunity to take part. 

What would you say to other people who are considering doing this – either as peer-reviewers or services wanting to join the QIN?

I think that it is a fantastic scheme. It is important to take part in it, but you must realise that it will take quite a bit of commitment. Services wanting to participate need to get the full backing both of their trust and of their line management to be allocated time to do the quality improvement work.

Peer-reviewers also need this support. Peer-reviewers who have used the various services need also to realise that there is a great deal of reading involved. You need to be confident voicing your own opinions. You need to listen carefully to other people and be prepared to disagree if you feel that it is appropriate. It is important only to take part if you are totally committed to the project. The Mind & Body team are an excellent support if you have any questions and will enable you to decide if it is right for you at this time.

Are there any areas of good practice that feel particularly important from your perspective?

  1. Lots of excellent examples of collaborative working both within teams, across various departments and linking with other trusts too;
  2. Excellent learning and development opportunities for staff;
  3. Dedication and commitment of staff in all areas and strong belief in collaborative working;
  4. Some simple information brochures which patients will want to read. Clear and simple communication is key;
  5. Lots of work around patient and public engagement and really taking notice of what patients have to say - then changing things to improve them if necessary.

If you are interested in learning more about the Mind & Body QIN, please see our webpages or get in touch with a member of the team: Francesca.brightey-gibbons@slam.nhs.uk / Carl.Nwabudike@slam.nhs.uk