A bit of background
In 2019 Primary Care Networks were introduced across the UK to enhance general practice, improve partnership between primary and community services and reduce health inequalities. In its last set of figures, the British Medical Association reported that 99% of GP practices are now included in a network.
These new structures have of course created changes for General Practice and finding new ways for previously independent practices to work together has been key. A particular area of focus has been maximising patient engagement and experience across networks. Since the introduction of PCNs in 2019, Capacity has worked in partnership with CWN. This has ranged from supporting them to establish their governance, helping recruit their team through to supporting their response to Covid. As CWN have matured, they have prioritised patient engagement and in 2021, they tasked us with supporting them to develop a network wide approach. CWN knew the way they engaged with patients to inform their services needed a rethink- they wanted to create space to hear the voice of the patient but were unsure how to do this. We were tasked to help think about how we could reach a diverse patient population, creating space for two way communication between the network and patients across their seven GP practices across South Liverpool:
- Greenbank Dr Surgery
- Greenbank Road Surgery
- Lance Lance Medical Centre
- Mossley Hill Surgery
- Penny Lane Surgery
- Rutherford Medical Centre
- The Valley Medical Centre
What did CWN want to achieve?
CWN’s aim for their practices was to improve their understanding of patients needs and help patients better understand what can be offered to them. To get under the skin of this, the network wanted to reach out to communities by hosting events to provide hands-on information and opportunities for patients to share their views. Capacity started by engaging with a Network Patient Participation Group (PPG) to think about how these meetings and volunteers could support PCN activity. We wanted to create space for patients to play an active role in the design of network services. The first two priority groups that CWN wanted to focus their engagement on were:
- Carers supporting people with dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
- Women who are currently affected by the menopause journey or who are experiencing peri-menopausal symptoms.
Through this engagement, CWN wanted to be able to promote its Health and Wellbeing Team and Social Prescribers who had been working in partnership with the network since October 2021.
So, how did Capacity help?
The overall aim of the events was to make sure that patients were left feeling more supported and had an opportunity to steer the development of the network.
We delivered a range of events to create these opportunities, working in partnership with a range of organisations that could offer support or advise patients within their network.
Event 1: Dementia & Alzheimer's Disease Carers event
Hosted in the iconic Strawberry Fields, CWN welcomed over 70 people to their event, including those with dementia and their carers.
This event was made up of practical advice sessions and information stalls. Patients were able to access a follow-up appointment with the Health and Wellbeing team for further support. Over 12 organisations were part of the event. The Liverpool Museums ‘House of Memories’ interactive bus played a part at the event as an interactive space, showing images and playing sounds from Liverpool in the past.
The chilled-out atmosphere of the event meant that there was an opportunity for patients to approach the stalls of other services with more confidence to gather the information they needed, with many representatives and attendees saying that the event was a great opportunity to build more contacts across the space.
Understanding that many attendees may feel overwhelmed with the amount of information to digest on the day, we also made sure that a series of ‘goody bags’ were available with all information needed, so no one went away empty-handed.
Event 2: Women's Health Event
Women’s health and menopause has received a lot more attention in the news recently, subsequently raising the profile of women who have been struggling and the lack of national awareness and support.
Since over 40% of CWN’s female patient population is affected by menopause, CWN wanted to host another patient-facing event that delivered an effective and alternative approach to understanding their patients better – ready to listen and understand what women need more or less of, whilst helping to bridge any gaps in their treatment plans or treatment knowledge.
CWN wanted to give patients expert information about what menopause is, how they can best manage it and help educate how patients could access support through their GPs, and what steps they might need to take to access support as smoothly as possible. So, Capacity cracked on again to support CWN with their goals to shape an event that would address their patient’s needs and support the women of their network.
Once again, the event was hosted in a non-traditional healthcare setting, at the beautiful Sefton Park Palm House. The event aimed to not only provide practical support and advice but to make women feel celebrated and valued. Dr Paula Briggs, who specialised in menopause research, was the event’s keynote speaker. Through Paula’s expertise, she was able to provide the latest information and innovations around menopause management, how secondary and primary care can work together to support patients, as well as answering some myth-busting Q&As from the audience.
Through this work, the PCN has been able to promote its approach to women’s health and carers of patients with dementia. This has reinforced relationships between the social prescribing team and other social enterprise organisations delivering individualised support in Liverpool. Without these events, patients would not have known the help was out there.
Effectively engaging patients in their care and design of services is essential to improve health outcomes and satisfaction. Finding ways which extend beyond traditional routes to engagement is essential if we want to reach a diverse range of people. Through the support of Capacity, CWN has taken a systematic approach, leading by problem area to engage with patients in a way that both pushes information to support patients immediate needs alongside pulling information from patients to support the design of future services. CWN and Capacity will continue to work together over the next year to collaborate on patient engagement activity, unpicking exactly what support their communities need and how their practices can help.
Our next focus areas will be men with mental health problems and people who are seeking a lot of help from their GP. Anecdotally we know our services for these populations can be improved, over the next few months we will be working closely with patients to understand what is and isn’t working to help steer the services and support delivered by the network health and wellbeing team.