It was a nice pleasant evening, perhaps a tad muggy as I walked into the seminar room at Gosport War Memorial. A patient engagement event laid out to discuss openly with the people in the community about their diabetes care and it was nice to see people spare their time to come out and simply..chat.
The fabulous community nurses - Jane and Julia were there outlining the educational role they have for primary care before some open Q&A from the audience and it was nice to see a lot of interaction from the attendees. And there were a few..frustrations about lack of communication between different sectors of the NHS, frustration regards access, queries about local amputation rates,the essential healthcare checks, the need for healthy food, the practical difficulties regards exercise...but amongst them, there were also those who were simply happy with their care.
An evening which I must say I really enjoyed as I genuinely believe that patient engagement continues to be nothing but a mirage, a tokenism most adhere to. Case in point? You can simply close your eyes and say what the main frustrations with diabetes care is...yet, we spend hours in meetings, drawing up pretty pictures, heck..even perhaps adding a name tag to something...while the patient issues? Exactly the same as it was a few years ago.We discussed finances, briefly ventured into politics, exhorted patients to be constructive critics, not join the media maelstrom...and was nice to see most still have faith in the care they receive. This was an audience primarily with people who have type 2 diabetes and this was an opportunity to show that healthcare professionals too are only but human. An intense desire to improve things but still as susceptible to coruscating criticism as anyone else.
And it also made me realise how difficult it is to have an actual debate about finances, the inability to make ends meet- some due to intransigence of some to change their way of working, some due to inability amongst separate organisations to work together as the bottom line at the end of March is still King...and the constant appeal that more finances will sort the mess out. It may to a certain extent, it certainly won't go the whole hog.
But amidst that, are the patients, still wondering how to exactly be seen by someone who knows what they are doing, someone who can simply see them on time. Social media and use of internet..simply the bastion of the young? Don't fool yourselves based on some half baked stats...the elderly gentleman in the front row had a twinkle in his eyes when he asked why in this era of skype and emails, communication wasn't better. Why indeed? Why is it that Newham can do it but Gosport can't? Both still have the same umbrella logo..NHS...so why isn't it a governance issue somewhere and is somewhere else?
So thank you to Liz, Dan, Gethin et al for laying out this event- and gladly look forward to helping out with more of such events. Makes much more sense to hear directly from the patients rather than send a 27 question loaded form to fill out. Ask and you shall hear what you need to hear...the question is whether you genuinely believe you can make the changes. As a diabetes department, we would be the first to acknowledge that everything isn't sorted but would also say that we are keen to improve things as we take advice from patients on board- our transitional service, 7 day working bear proof of that.
Patience and time...give the healthcare professionals that...mix that with the dollop of passion they bring and sprinkle on some charm...I promise you...a heady brew can't be that far away.