Hello, my name is Clare Enston – I work on all things patient feedback and the insight we can get from understanding other people’s perspectives. How are you? These are difficult and strange times we live in – I hope you and yours are keeping well.

Fresh on the heels of the fabulous 10th PENNA awards, we’re now in our fourth year of working with Ruth, Louise and Helen to take the work of winners, runners up and shortlisted projects around the country on our Insight Roadshows, with the express aim of celebrating the work and building connections between colleagues on the possibilities of improving services for patients.

The projects we heard from last week demonstrated the richness that can come from personal connection in various ways – from the work of Malcolm Heaven in Leicestershire to use bread making as a means to connect and support, to the global connections made by University Hospitals of Plymouth NHS Trust in their #RehabLegend project – this year’s overall winner. The energy that comes through during the sessions as well as the commitment of colleagues spurs us on long after the teams call, knowing that there are brilliant people out there, doing all kinds of thoughtful work to changes lives for the better.

Whilst the work of these projects was done some time ago now, it feels right to celebrate the excellent work of teams now, to remind ourselves of the power of what can be done and how important the patient experience remains. I’d like to say a big thank you to Helen, Louise and Ruth for creating such an inclusive and easy-to-navigate virtual space for us to hold these events this year. If you have chance to join the remaining sessions, please do join us on Thursday 29 October and Thursday 5 November.
In shifting our collective gaze back towards keeping patient experience on the table as we continue to work within a pandemic, one of the main things we’re doing nationally is getting the Friends and Family test (FFT) up and running again for services outside of primary care. Prior to the pandemic, we had updated the policy in response to feedback from healthcare staff along with patients so that it works better for those who use it or encounter it. As we reinstate it, we will move to this new policy which means a new standard question, suggested new free text questions, and flexibility on timing which puts all the power in local teams’ hands.

At its simplest, FFT is really just about listening bravely to patients, putting ourselves in their shoes and having an ambition to improve things, and in recent weeks we’ve heard some great examples of where teams have not let the pandemic deviate them from that. Leeds Teaching Hospitals, University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust, Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust all carried on using FFT to listen to patients and we’ll be sharing their stories of what why and how they did this on our case studies  page shortly. If you are catching up with all things FFT and would like some additional support, please get in touch with our helpdesk: england.friendsandfamilytest@nhs.net

The work of patient experience teams does not focus solely on patients; the broader family and support team often navigating the NHS for their loved ones is also critical right now; Carers UK estimate that the pandemic has created an additional 4.5 million new carers so it feels timely to mention that FFT can be used to hear from carers, relatives, partners and visitors as well as patients.

More broadly still, volunteers have played a significant role both during the Covid-19 pandemic and will continue to be needed to support the NHS throughout winter and a second wave. Whilst many of our volunteers have been stood down during the pandemic, many have continued to support, adapting their roles to support patients within covid restrictions, such as relaying messages to loved ones, supporting patients to access virtual services and supporting hospital discharge. Volunteers have also played a significant role in supporting our NHS staff during the pandemic for example volunteers ran donation and wellbeing hubs, distributed food and wellbeing kits to staff, enabled staff to take vital breaks, supported with PPE and provided mental health support.

We have produced Covid contextualised role descriptions to ensure roles are appropriate and can be delivered safely amidst Covid restrictions, such as:
Administrative Volunteer
Staff Wellbeing Volunteer
Patient Liaison Support Volunteer
Patient Buddy 
Response Volunteer
Meet and Greet Volunteer
End of Life Volunteer
Discharge Support Volunteer

We are keen to invest in volunteering services and have opened applications for our Covid/winter volunteering programme. NHS trusts can apply for up to £20K for volunteering activity which will contribute to reducing pressure, support staff wellbeing and improve patient experience. We’re looking to fund trust volunteering activity between November 2020 and March 2021. The deadline for applications is Wednesday 4 November. For an application pack, or for any questions about the role descriptions, please email: england.volunteering@nhs.net

Of course I can’t not mention staff, whose dedication and stamina at this time cannot go without recognition and gratitude. Thank you for everything you continue to do. If you work in an NHS Trust, you may have received your copy of the National Staff Survey for 2020. This year it feels more important than ever to hear from staff so that we can understand your collective experience and take this forward into plans for the future, so please do fill it in, if you are able. It’s open till later in November.

If you’d like any further information about any of the topics mentioned, or just want to connect, please do! I do my job better when I understand how you do yours, so please do get in touch on clare.enston@nhs.net