We have been operating our programme of National Projects since 2012 following a pilot in the South West in 2010 and have worked with over 50 NHS Trusts and other organisations supporting them in developing improvement projects using a co-production approach involving patients as equal partners in their work. We use a wide range of methods including patient and staff surveys, focus groups, observations, mystery shopper and community reporting where patients use video cameras to film community members to explore issues that are important to them. Much of our work involves working with and for carers.
We work with healthcare organisations who become Organisational Members of the Patients Association which gives them the opportunity to utilise twelve days of project management skills from one of our team of freelance project managers and also gives them access to Patients Association published material, support with one complaint casework, privileged access to examples of best practice on the Patients Association website and the recognition that comes with working with the ‘only game in town’ when it comes to setting standards for managing complaints (Sir Robert Francis, 2014). The Patients Association provides a truly independent report of its work with healthcare organisations. This is valued by those who work with us and is seen as transparent by those who audit, monitor or regulate.
Our pool of expertise has grown from a handful of employed staff in 2010 to more than 25 freelance project managers today and our recruitment programme is continuing. Project managers have high levels of skills and expertise and come from a range of professional backgrounds including executive directors, specialist clinicians, academics, researchers, educators, trainers and those with specialist project management expertise. Our project managers are absolutely passionate about improving patient care and involving patients in achieving this goal.
Organisational members have regular contact with their project manager who works with the healthcare organisation in developing a project proposal with agreed timescale and they receive a comprehensive report of the project work including recommendations at the completion of the project. Ongoing support is available for implementation of recommendations if this is required.
Our expectations for projects that we undertake are that they lead to improvements for patients, that the project is replicable and sustainable and leaves a legacy for the benefit of others.
Patients Association Volunteer Ambassadors are vital in helping make our projects happen. Our Ambassadors provide invaluable support to our projects in a number of ways. Ambassadors help with recruitment and data collection for our surveys, some of them are trained community reporters and many of them promote the work of the Patients Association in their communities.