A public conversation around healthcare

Matthew Kennedy says efforts to engage with the public on healthcare are vital.

Involving the public in an open and transparent conversation about healthcare in Wales is absolutely vital in our aim for sustainable, high quality and co-produced services that meet the needs of the individual. The expertise of patients, family members and the public as a whole will continue to be a rich source of information and insight that the NHS, public services and the third sector should embrace wholeheartedly. Putting the person at the centre of cancer care is an approach that Macmillan Cancer Support has been advocating for some time now.

Let’s talk Cancer

The IWA has been listening to people’s experiences of cancer care in Wales and their ideas for how to make it better. Let’s talk cancer, in partnership with Tenovus Cancer Care and the Jane Hodge Foundation, now has almost 80 ideas on our site. We want to hear what you think of them. Why not visit the site, comment and vote for your favourites?

One way we have sought to support this approach at Macmillan Wales is through the Wales Cancer Patient Experience Survey 2014 (WCPES). In partnership with Welsh Government and the first of its kind in Wales, it captured the views and experiences of 7,352 patients, amounting to a response rate of 69%. This demonstrates the appetite among cancer patients to share their experiences, both good and bad, to drive meaningful, tangible improvements in cancer care.

In the future, these survey results will allow benchmarking to be made against how Local Health Boards/Trust are able to meet people’s needs as set out in Welsh Government’s (WG) Cancer Delivery Plan.

It is important to acknowledge that the Wales CPES results revealed high levels of satisfaction with NHS cancer care in Wales, with 89% of patients rating their overall care as excellent or very good. While this is clearly highly positive, and something to be celebrated, the survey findings also revealed particular areas where improvements need to be made, including:

  • Issues around prompt diagnosis and referral to treatment times

  • Consistent access to holistic advice and information

  • Patients  reporting not being offered a written care plan

Although some of the more negative results should be rightly concerning, they do however provide a focus and highlight where gaps and unacceptable variation in experience exist. That, in a nutshell, is why the Wales CPES is so valuable to us, patients and clinicians alike. This rich picture demonstrates why this method of engaging the public should become a mainstay of how we develop, improve and innovate cancer care in Wales.

These results will have increasing relevance as we draw closer to the Welsh Assembly Election in 2016, as the political parties in Wales consider their manifesto commitments around the health service. We have recently established an Election Task & Finish (T&F) Group comprised of people affected by cancer to develop, refine and provide a key sounding board for what we as Macmillan are seeking those parties to commit to. Our T&F Group will also be helping us to facilitate a number of focus groups across Wales to broaden the discussion around cancer care, specific to our election work. Although this group is “task” and “finish” in its nature, this is the continuation and development of involvement of people affected by cancer in our policy and public affairs work.

The launch of “Let’s Talk Cancer” by the IWA has also prompted a broader debate with the public, where some of the most popular policy ideas reflect the issues highlighted through the Wales CPES. For example, issues such as communication by the GP or clinicians, the availability of information and access to advice.

All of this backs up why efforts to engage the public are so important. Particularly in a time where resources in many key public services, as well as the NHS, are stretched. The public hold the answer to how resources can be focussed to meet need in a more effective and efficient way. The current direction of travel towards a more prudent approach in the NHS is driving a more person centred culture and it is important, that regardless of the respective make-up of the next Welsh Government following May 2016, that this drive and impetus is not lost.

Matthew Kennedy is Policy Officer for Wales for Macmillan Cancer Support.

3 thoughts on “A public conversation around healthcare

  1. Separate all cancer related services from the NHS and set up as another entity -able to have core funds and be free of all the red tape that the NHS has wound itself up in. Also free from politics Social Enterprise comes to mind.- look at the Dwr Cymru model. SE doesn’t have to be small and comes with many benefits. All aspects can be linked in as can all other sectors involved – worth looking at

  2. Engaging patients in public consultations is most certainly the way the NHS will go forward, but there is also the challenge of educating the public as well in order that their contributions are apposite and realistic. I think this will depend on improved communications and clarity from bodies who are committed to public engagement.

  3. In mental health scenarios , ” Care Plans” are rarely seen by a patient even if written.
    It is a nineteenth -century NHS in Welsh Mental Health, ‘care, in the opinion of many of those who have the misfortune to have to use mental health services. ‘ here in Wales.

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