Jane Simkin, Macmillan Patient Information Project Lead, Dorset County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
Since June 2014 I have been employed as the Macmillan Patient Information Project Lead, in a post that has been hosted at Dorset County Hospital and funded by Macmillan Cancer Support.
The aim of the project has been to:
- scope the current provision of health information and support throughout Dorset
- engage with patients and the public to identify how they would like to be supported with regards to health information and support when living with and beyond cancer
- and finally to produce a strategy of the project findings, with recommendations for the stakeholders on how the provision of health information and support can be improved across the County.
As part of the initial support Macmillan Cancer Support funded an information space to be opened at Dorset County Hospital.
In order to achieve the project outcomes the initial approach was to discover what health information and support was currently available, where, when and how it was available. Then to engage with the public to discover where, when, how and in what format they would like it to be available.
Another important aspect that was identified in the project scope was the importance of taking into consideration the availability and access to health information and support for harder to reach groups. Therefore the first question to ask was, where, when and how information is currently available? This was achieved in a variety of ways.
- Networking across the county with members from the public, private and voluntary sector
- Presenting at conferences to raise awareness
- Holding three engagement events – these were interactive events, attendees were invited to stick colour coded pins into a map of the county to identify where services were available. The pins were coded into categories; Health Information, Health and Wellbeing, Library and Information Centre/Spaces and Support Provided by Communities, Support Groups and Psychological support, Welfare & Benefits and End of Life Support. The information and support services were not necessarily cancer specific, but were available to the community.
The information collated from these events has allowed the production of a comprehensive list of services that are available across the county. The events offered networking opportunities and the feedback we received was very positive.
The second question I sought to answer was where, when, how and in what format patients and the public would like to receive information. After consideration I felt that in order to reach the more rural parts of the county it was necessary to approach engagement in a slightly different way, to actually go where people are, rather than putting on events and expecting people to attend. We did this via:
- Mobile Library Service – going out on this service and engaging with people when they use the library facilities
- Parish Council meetings
- Village coffee mornings
- Gypsy and traveller event
- Static libraries across the county
- Community hospitals
- Craft fairs
- County hospitals
- Health and wellbeing groups
- Support groups
At these opportunities to engage with the public I have used various approaches, one to one interviews, focus groups and questionnaires of different lengths. The most frequent method adopted has been a one question questionnaire. Time has also been spent with charitable and public organisations that are supporting people with specific needs, such as learning disabilities, dementia and the elderly population.
Having scoped the current situation and engaged with the public I discovered a hub and spoke approach would be the most suitable way of providing a complete service across Dorset. This would enable an integrated support model that will be sustainable and offer help and support for the people, where they need it, when they need it and how they need it.
This style of service will also be able to support patients with other long term conditions by offering an informed supportive sign-posting service linking in with Health and Social Care Services, local hospices, voluntary and public services.
The service will also allow other Macmillan services available in the County, Macmillan CAB Advisors and Macmillan Dorset Advocacy to work closely together and offer a seamless service.
The strategy, which will be launched in October 2015, will reflect these findings and will contain recommendations on how to move forward to improve health information and support throughout Dorset.
Having access to information and support offers patients informed choices, empowerment, reduces anxiety and overall achieves better outcomes. The Patient Information Forum (PIF) has been a valuable resource for me throughout the project. I recently attended their annual conference which offered informative work stations, networking and show casing of best practice and existing services. This opportunity was available due to the partnership between Macmillan Cancer Support and PIF which has also enabled me to become a member of PIF.