Seeing services through a patient's eyes

The skill mix physios have puts them in a great position to provide patient-centred care.

Physiotherapy managers must embrace the patient-centred approach to care - it's here to stay, says a health professions adviser to the Department of Health. 'Patient and public expectations are rising,' physio Karen Middleton told Congress delegates. 'We talk about unrealistic expectations, but are we really talking about need we cannot meet?' Her session explored how managers can influence the development and delivery of services that do meet the needs of patients. 'This agenda can be quite threatening to the clinician,' Ms Middleton warned, urging managers not to forget staff in the race to provide patient-centred care. 'You need to meet [their] needs too.' However, improving services can also create opportunities for staff, she pointed out. Physios 'have a really good balance between hard technical skills and softer skills - empathy, time and touch', Ms Middleton said. She believes these are as valuable, if not more so, than 'harder, technical skills' when it comes to providing patient-centred care. The publication in the summer of the NHS Improvement Plan has shifted this approach to care up the agenda again, she explained. 'The idea is that where patients have choice they will choose the best, which will drive up improvement.' The plan also highlights a move 'away from acute episodes to consider what conditions affect most of our patients - and that is long-term conditions'. Ms Middleton considered the manager's role in providing choice. 'I think the first thing to recognise is that patient-centred care is not just about doctors and nurses. You have to lead by example - you need to believe in this concept intellectually and emotionally and you have to get staff to see the service through the patients' eyes.' Managers must ask whether their service was needs-led, she said, asking: 'Have you done a local needs assessment? Are the training courses your staff go on linked to local needs?' Service redesign to meet patient need goes 'much deeper than extending clinic opening hours', Ms Middleton told delegates. 'How do you create more time for your clinicians to work with patients? More investment up front in terms of time with patients might save time later on.' Collaboration in service provision 'needs to be not just across disciplines, but across the health and social care sectors, across education and also with voluntary services', she added.
Lisa Oxlade

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