08 Mar 2023
Tool launched to help patients and carers improve safety across health and care
A first-of-its-kind free guide that helps patients and carers to take greater control of their healthcare and improve their safety has been launched on Tuesday 7th March 2023.
The Patient Safety Guide has been co-developed by patients, carers, GPs, pharmacists with researchers from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (GM PSTRC). The centre is a partnership between The University of Manchester and Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust.
The guide helps patients, and their carers decide on the most appropriate way to access healthcare (for example, whether they should visit a pharmacist, book a GP appointment, or visit A&E). It also provides guidance on how to plan for interactions with healthcare staff. There’s suggested questions to ask, and space to make notes both before and after an appointment. Information around any tests that may be recommended can be logged in the guide and it can be used as a place to list all the medications a person is taking.
The guide is available to download from a dedicated website and via an app for iOS and Android phones. It includes specific advice for people with hearing loss and there is a version for people who have vision impairment.
Dr Rebecca Morris, lead for the Patient Safety Guide, said: “Involving patients in their safety is a central recommendation of NHS England’s National Patient Safety strategy and our team were looking at ways of doing this when we started work on our patient safety guide. We wanted to create something that gives patients the ability to understand and support their care while giving them confidence to ask the questions that are important to them.
“We believe our guide addresses some of the most common challenges faced by patients and carers while having the potential to narrow the gap in health inequalities. For example, we’re aware that some patients may take a number of different medications and are under the care of several different doctors. The guide helps the patient and their carer, if they have one, to keep track of all of this. Also, in situations where two family members may be caring for an older relative and are both taking them to different appointments, the guide is an easy way of sharing important information accurately. Alternatively, for someone who may struggle with verbal communication they can use the guide as a way of helping their communication with health care staff. We hope that our guide can be adopted and used widely to help improve patient safety.”
The guide underwent two phases of testing. The first started before the pandemic and the second during it, when appointments were both in-person and virtual. This process involved eight GP practices across the North West of England. One of the GPs involved in the study, said: “I think the patient safety guide is a great idea. It seems doctors and patients sometimes talk at cross-purposes but can’t work out what the confusion is. I think the guide will help patients in a way that could improve their understanding of the system and doctors’ thinking. It could help empower patients.”
Kay Gallacher, a public contributor who was involved in developing and designing the guide, said: “For me, the NHS can seem like a complex system with its own language. I feel the guide can give patients and carers the tools they need to navigate it. The guide helps to ensure everyone can get the most out of an appointment with healthcare staff. I’ve found it particularly useful being able to use the guide to remind me what a doctor may have said at a previous appointment.
“Also, I do find my mind can go blank the moment I start to talk to a doctor, so being able to plan ahead and make a note of all the questions I want to ask helps me to make the most of the appointment. I can note down the answers and this makes it easier when trying to recall what the doctor said. I believe the guide is something that can make a big difference across health and social care and I’m looking forward to more people hearing about it so they can start using it and benefitting from it.”
The guide is now available for anyone to access via the app and online, and researchers are encouraging organisations interested in rolling it out to get in touch – Dr Rebecca Morris.