Tearing up the rulebook – how the public have changed the way I work

Laura Hitt – Communications Officer at the South West Academic Health Science Network – talks about her experience of organising the Quality Improvement Partner Panels training programme in thig blog.
The first ever Quality Improvement Partner Panels (QuIPPs) training programme is complete! I thought training members of the public in quality improvement (QI) would be similar to training health and social care professionals – well, I couldn’t have been more wrong…
Working with the public was such an eye-opening experience; the drive, passion and knowledge that the public can offer is incredible. From engineers to nurses, and patients to carers, everyone had a strong view on the health and social care system – whether this was from working in the system, using the system regularly from a patient’s perspective or just generally wanting to improve health and social care.

They surpassed our expectations when playing quality improvement games, broke the unwritten rules that health and social care professionals always followed, and challenged the faculty continuously throughout the programme. For example, on day one we asked two teams to pull tissues out of a box as quick as possible. Typically, health and social care teams would pull one tissue out at a time and then use an alternative solution by about round four. The public ripped the box straight away and handed us the tissues. From this, we quickly learnt that this training programme would be nothing like our previous iterations.
It was so refreshing to be forced to take a new perspective on a training programme which we were getting so used to delivering. The first two training days focused on quality improvement methodology, and the second two were more around co-production of the panel process. After graduating from the training programme, the delegates become ‘partners’ and form panels of up to six people. These panels then meet one innovator or health and social care QI team per month through a video conference to provide advice, feedback and suggestions to improve their innovation or project from a public perspective.
Delegates quickly adopted the test and learn approach we taught on day one to provide suggestions on how the panels run; together, we changed the panel sizes, dates and times of meetings and the structure of presentation. This instilled the importance of public input when planning a project, the positive effect it would have on engagement, and reminded us to take a step back and hand over some control of the project to the delegates. The desire from the panel members to meet face-to-face rather than through video conference was unmistakeable, and although this change is not feasible for this cohort of QuIPPs, it is definitely something to look into further for a future programme.
One of our delegates works in the health and care system and was aware of a regional conference happening a few weeks ago. She invited a small group from the QuIPPs programme to go along with her, and before we knew it, we had eight members of QuIPPs representing the programme at a well-known healthcare event! This just shows the belief the QuIPPs members have in the programme; the relationships which formed after a couple days of training; and that we do not need to encourage the public to get involved, they are already so invested in improving health and care and will find ways of doing this independently.
I never could have imagined how much I would enjoy working with our newly-graduated public partners, and the relationships we would build in four days. It feels strange to know that I won’t see them in person again for a while, but knowing that there are now 30 more members of the public trained in quality improvement across the South West is hugely reassuring, and I cannot wait to report on the fantastic impact they are having in the system.
My take-home message? Do not underestimate the potential the public have in improving your project, innovation, service change or even day-to-day operations. Utilise the power of the public voice, embrace their opinions and embed them in your processes so ‘public involvement’ isn’t a tokenistic addition but a core part of your work.
Watch this space!
For more information on QuIPPs, please look at www.swahsn.com/quipps or email quipps@swahsn.com.

QuIPPs is part of the Health Foundation’s Q Exchange programme. The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.

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