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Miles Sibley, of the Patient Experience Library (see his Directory profile), shares his improvement journey and invites people to join the ‘Making Use of Patient Experience’ Q special interest group that he has launched, with Mark Sadler (see full list of SIGs).

How – and why? – did you first get involved in improvement; and what has been your journey since then?
It goes back to when I worked in homelessness projects. I couldn’t believe that in a wealthy country like ours, there were people who were absolutely destitute. Many had mental illnesses, and were in a cycle of street – police cell – hospital – street. The system clearly had room for improvement.

I have worked in the environment sector, looking at how local green spaces (parks, woods etc) could be maintained and improved through the efforts of the local communities that use them. That’s where I learned that professional expertise can be more effective when coupled with the kind of knowledge that comes from local people’s experiences.

More recently, working with Healthwatch, I have seen that in the health sector too, professionals can bring skills, while patients can bring insight. That’s a powerful combination.

What most inspires you professionally?
Open-mindedness and a willingness to learn. Plus a commitment to follow through on the learning.

Continuous improvement depends fundamentally on a good understanding of patient experience

Can you share a hard-won lesson you’ve learnt about what makes for a successful (or unsuccessful) improvement project.
I once worked with an organisation whose staff were scattered across multiple locations. Each location had to report its work outputs, but each did so using its own reporting system. Everyone knew it was inefficient, but everyone thought their own system was better than anyone else’s.

We introduced a single reporting system that was faster, cheaper, easier to use and provided more reliable data. But there was huge resistance to using it. It took two years to get the single system fully adopted – a powerful lesson in how strong the “not invented here” syndrome is.

What change could we make that would do most to embed continuous improvement in health and care?
Continuous improvement depends fundamentally on a good understanding of patient experience.

We collect a mountain of evidence on patient experience, from sources including the NHS Friends and Family Test, Care Quality Commission patient surveys, NHS England’s GP patient survey, local Healthwatch reports, NHS Choices star ratings, and Patient Opinion. On top of that, we pile further information from local questionnaire surveys, focus groups and public meetings. And on top of that are all the compliments and complaints that come directly from patients.

We need to sort through this huge pile of confusing stuff. If some evidence sources are not very good, we need to be very brave, and say so. Then we need to stop using them. Beyond that, we need to pick out a few reliable sources that have demonstrable value in guiding policy and practice. Then we need to stick with them.

Why did you join Q?
To contribute! And to learn from other people with a commitment to quality improvement. And, hopefully, to make some positive improvements in the area of patient experience.

What new connections (and collaborations) have you made as a result of joining the Q community – and what have you learnt so far?
I’m really pleased to have met various people from around the South West who I would not have encountered if I hadn’t been involved in Q. There are some fantastically knowledgeable and committed people working in health and care. I’m looking forward to doing more work with some of them.

Can you tell us about something you’re currently working on – that Q members might be able to contribute to.
I’m convening a Q Special Interest Group on patient experience (with Mark Sadler) – looking at how we could get better at gathering evidence, and then making use of it. If you want to join in, please do!

The Patient Experience Library


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