Heather Eardley, Head of Projects and Partnerships

The Patients Association is a well-respected independent campaigning organisation for people using the health and social care system. People who use services have a unique perspective and their views need to be respected, their contribution valued and when involved seen as equal partners. As a consequence in recent years we have begun to work with organisations in collaborative projects to ensure people who use services are the heart of change and service improvement.

Over the last six years we have initiated over 120 projects, all very practically based and picking up on what is important for patients, their families and carers. Currently we have 17 projects in progress, working with NHS Trusts and other health and social care organisations on a range of topics including improving complaint handling. This has included setting up patient complaints panels, training staff and volunteers and developing a toolkit for trusts on ensuring independence in complaints handing. This work will be presented at the National Complaints Managers Forum on 2nd March 2018.

Other examples of how patients are influencing health and social care include looking at tools to enable patients to care for themselves more in partnership with GPs and other health staff. We have produced a nutrition checklist, are part of the National Audit of End of Life Care and are developing a feedback tool for friends and relatives of bereaved patients. We are also working with NHS England at a local level with GP practices to develop data which will help local Patient Participation Groups monitor performance and quality.

The above work involves patients and carers in many aspects of service improvement and is supported by a small team of locally based project managers. Much of my time is spent talking to people from other organisations and patient groups, and developing new projects and partnerships by involving patients in influencing and improving services. No two days are the same and working from my base in the south west means lots of my time is spent on the phone, using Skype or participating in webinars. I work closely with our helpline and Policy and Communications team in London.

I am also working with Plymouth University as a project team member for an exciting project called EPIC which aims to improve the use of technology and innovation in both health and social care in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

Heather Eardley,

Head of Projects and Partnerships