Article of the Month December 2010

Sam HudsonSam Hudson, Head of Experience and Engagement at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement has selected the Evaluation of the NHS Institute Patient Experience Learning Programme as the article of the month for December 2010.  Find the full evaluation report here

Between December 2009 and September 2010 the Department of Health funded a learning programme to help staff working in NHS organisations to take a patient-centred approach to improving services.   This was a pilot programme and the NHS Institute were keen to learn and build on this experience for future programmes. 

The NHS Institute designed a learning programme which included six full day sessions, including four learning workshops, a service safari and an end of programme learning and sharing event.  Alongside the face-to-face sessions the 45 participants were offered five on-line learning sessions, one-to-one coaching, evaluation support and membership of an on-line network for sharing information and effective practice.  Programme participants also carried out workplace projects.

A key objective of this pilot programme was to ensure that participants had a great experience and the evaluation carried out by Shared Intelligence shows high expectations matched with good satisfaction.

“The programme made patient experience come alive and real.”

Participants had a range of expectations and were keen to develop their skills, meet peers they could share knowledge with and find support to carry out improvements. 

In addition, they were keen to have an opportunity to implement the learnt techniques.  In particular, participants wanted information on how to develop in-patient feedback systems and how to measure experience as well as skills in change management.

It is clear in the evaluation that participants particularly valued the workshop facilitation which was delivered by Impact Innovation and they cited the “energy” and “enthusiasm”. 

The programme management and structure of the workshops was noted as being  well organised and presented to provide “frames for thinking”.  Participants valued the practical tools, tips and insight as well as access to other resources via the on-line network. 

“The learning programme enabled me to talk confidently with colleagues and patients about patient experience - what it is, why it's important, why it's everyone's business.”

As this was a national learning programme there were challenges in managing the expectations of a diverse cohort. 

An interesting finding from the evaluation was that whilst the majority of participants valued the mix of face-to-face and virtual learning opportunities there were some that preferred face-to-face only.  

Participants were also very keen to learn more from NHS colleagues about health experience.  There was an observation that the pilot programme had emphasised private sector examples and that there was sometimes difficulty translating this to the NHS context. 

The full evaluation report includes descriptions of some of achievements of the workplace projects.  

Positive outcomes of the experience projects include: 

  • changes to staff behaviour and ‘buy-in’ to delivering a positive experience
  • better patient experience mechanisms 
  • changes to service delivery 
  • better communication of performance in relation to patient experience
  • patient experience becoming more embedded. 

One of the aims of the evaluation was to explore some of the challenges faced by NHS staff when trying to improve patient experience. 

Some participants reported challenges with engaging clinicians in their experience programme.  They also reported difficulties securing resources. 

A major challenge was the developing policy landscape during the time of the programme which lead to changes in staffing and the organisational structure in Trusts.  In addition, participants said that sometimes it was quite challenging to deal with the feedback itself and the implications for the service.  For some, they felt that their initial project aims were quite ambitious and would recommend to others that they focus in on a smaller area to begin with.   

See the full report for summaries of some of the workplace projects – including: 

  • Dying Well: NHS Bradford and Airedale
  • Using Experience-Based Design in day surgery and the patient experience revolution: Whipps Cross University Hospital NHS Trust
  • Utilising Experience Based Design principles (EBD): NHS Barnsley - Care Services Direct
  • Developing the skills of patient experience leads to facilitate wider learning: NHS West Midlands
  • The Care Programme Approach from a Patient Perspective – Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust

What have we learned about patient experience leads?

It is clear that experience is part of a portfolio of responsibility and although participants were often in senior roles their capacity was sometimes limited.  The evaluation also reveals that some Trusts lack access to direct research experience, in particular qualitative research and can be unsure about how to utilise patient experience feedback data.

Overall we know that there is a high level of ‘buy-in’ to patient experience approaches and a great deal of expertise already “out there” as well as staff who are motivated to overcome challenges and influence change locally.   


Click here to see some films highlighting how programme participants across the NHS are transforming patient experiences

Supporting material
Click here to access materials from the Patient Experience Learning Programme and read the full evaluation report

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