WHAT CAN A PRO-ACTIVE PATIENT PANEL ACHIEVE AT A HOSPITAL? provided by Princess Alexandra Hospital for WhereIsTheCare

Article provided for WhereIsTheCare


Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, has always had links with various patient organisations within the hospital.

I am sure you are all familiar with the issues and publicity surrounding Mid Staffordshire hospital that led to the Francis Report.  His report recommended “We need a patient-centred culture” and also observed “The patient voice was not heard or listened to”

In July, 2013 Princess Alexandra Hospital decided to formalise a renewed Patient Panel and I was appointed Chair, with a team of people who had recent experience as a patient or carer.

Our purpose is to make sure that the Patient voice is heard in all areas of the hospital, especially in the decision-making process. Princess Alexandra Hospital has embedded the following values in all their work Respectful, Responsible, Caring and Committed and part of our work is to provide reassurance that these values are kept to. We are not here to only find fault but also to highlight the very good work done within Princess Alexandra Hospital.
We do not deal with complaints because there is a very good PALS (Patient Advice and Liaison Service) in the hospital.


Our achievements

Discharge process – This was seen as a major issue and all members of the panel have had personal experience of this process andwe set up a task group to look into this issue. Healthwatch Essex is also carrying out research into the discharge process and we (PAH) volunteered to be one of the pilot hospitals. This moved us naturally into Pharmacy who came out as the villain because of the delays in discharge by sometimes not having medication available immediately.

Pharmacy – The Chief Pharmacist attended one of our meetings and this resulted in members being invited to Pharmacy to see how they work, where the delays occur and how they are already initiating creative solutions to overcome the problems. This also identified that it was often a combination of small issues, which, when combined, led to delays and it was always not exclusively the pharmacy’s fault.

Food – Mollie, one of our members, has spent considerable time at meetings and on the wards, asking questions such as: “Is this the food you would want your mother to eat?”, checking portion sizes, whether food is at the correct temperature and whether protected mealtimes are respected, allowing patients to enjoy their meals without being disturbed by trips to X-ray, Pathology or doctors’ rounds.

Website – We are very fortunate to have Russ who has an excellent background in computers, and is working on a new web page for the Patient Panel, that will make it easy for you to find information, see the minutes of our meetings, reports on our work and information on how you can join us.

Reporting – What happens to our reports, findings and suggestions? I have regular meetings with Nancy Fontaine, Chief Nurse and Douglas Smallwoood, Chairman of the Board. We currently have Patient Panel members sitting on nine different committees, with requests to join more. This is our opportunity to give the feedback we have received from the users of Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Conference – In our first six months we organised our first conference inviting the community and voluntary organisations to tell us what is important to them and helping to set the agenda for the work of the panel in the coming year.
We are planning for our next conference in February 2014.

Annual Report – It is important to show people that we can influence change so we produced our first Annual Report, this has been well received.
(link to report http://www.pah.nhs.uk/index.php?cms_page_id=1561)


Our aims for the future

Improving the environment – This covers many things including the surroundings and conditions that a person experiences while as a patient, a visitor or an employee at Princess Alexandra Hospital.

Better communication with patients – We have already held one open meeting to find out what is important to them and to help us set the agenda for the Panel, and we have another open meeting planned for February, 2015. We rotate our committee meetings between morning, afternoons and evenings allowing us to be more accessible to the people who use Princess Alexandra Hospital

Partnership working – student nurse ambassadors have evolved from our first open meeting and are being supported by Anglia Ruskin University. We have made good contacts with Anita and Irene from the West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (GP’s) and look to make more links with the many voluntary health groups in our community.


Ann Nutt
Chair, Patient Panel

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