Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust covers one of the largest geographical areas in England and my role within research & development within the trust is to develop and improve services for patients and individuals through a variety of communication methods.
I morphed over from local government to the NHS in February 2010 after previously working on several projects within Newcastle City Council. While working in the city council I had numerous roles in public libraries, and then joined Social Services where I developed a literacy initiative in partnership with professionals from children’s services, libraries, external agencies and other partner/provider agencies to promote access to literacy for children and young people in public care. This involved working with young people and carers to identify and establish appropriate materials to help with their educational needs and establishing close working relationships with other agencies to raise outcomes for young people. This led to an award of best practice from Ofsted.
Since then my life has been taken up with understanding health acronyms! Recently I have finished a research project developed in response to the Department of Health’s white paper, ‘Our health, our care, our say’ that introduced the concept of ‘Information Prescriptions’. This commitment to promoting shared understanding led me to introduce a more patient-centred service that would signpost users to relevant information about their long-term condition and support the notion of self management.
Working within a close team consisting of Health Psychologist and information specialists, we developed a service that guides patients and carers to relevant, timely and reliable information using health professional-led Information Prescriptions and user-led Information Menus. Clinical teams in out-patients use Information Prescriptions to signpost people to the Information Service. Information Menus are used by patients to access information directly between appointments. Menus have been particularly useful for those at GP practices, in the community, in-patients and those accessing allied health professionals (i.e. dieticians, physiotherapists, psychologists, pharmacy).
The service uses predominantly voluntary organisation information and allows information to be embedded into clinical practice, enabling users to feel more in control and better able to manage their condition. The Information Service is manned by Library Information Specialists who dispense or signpost people to information about their condition, treatment, benefits advice and support groups. Evaluation results and ongoing feedback from users and professionals was fed back to further improve services.
The aim of the research project was primarily to improve provision and trial different models of service delivery for three long-term conditions. My role was to liaise with patients, carers and health professionals regarding the development and delivery of the service. This has been a very rewarding project and has allowed information to be embedded across each stage of the care pathway of three different long-term conditions. Not only have we created a low cost solution, but we have also opened up new channels of working with third sector organisations.
Working within a multidisciplinary team with other health clinicians, who each provide specific services has enhanced engagement and collaboration between different sectors, leading to a shift in how information should be given amongst clinicians and staff. This has revolutionised information giving, enabling a better patient-clinician relationship.
Following this short, but intensive project I have recently become involved in another aspect of research & development and will be looking for new solutions for involving patients in clinical research. So my career has taken yet another turn away from the traditional library role.
I have been a member of the Patient Information Forum since my inauguration into the NHS back in 2010. This introduction to an organisation involved in the health information field, give me a window into the wealth of resources and expertise in one portal. The newsletter is invaluable as there is an abundance of issues relating to information and news informing on relevant policy making. Recently I presented at the PIF conference which allowed me a platform to share good practice verbally and learn from others about the value of keeping up to date with relevant health information news. The value has been immense, and has helped equip me with an understanding and knowledge that has nurtured my role within research & development.