Strength in numbers

Written by Katie Mackintosh on 15 October 2014

Earlier this year Health Secretary Alex Neil issued a challenge: “We must do more to listen to and promote the voices of those we care for. We need to get the voices of patients, those receiving care and their families to be heard in a much clearer and stronger way.”

Taking up that challenge is the Stronger Voice project team, which includes representatives from the Scottish Government, the Scottish Health Council, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, The Alliance, and COSLA. They have been asked to bring forward proposals by the end of this year and so this month I attended one of the first Strengthening the Patient Voice national discussion events to debate what a stronger voice could mean for people using services, their families and carers and the general public.

It’s good to talk, but as Joanna Swanson, from the Scottish Government, told the audience: “It is important to listen with purpose and action. It is not just about hearing the voice, it is about what we are going to do with the voice when we hear it.”

At my table the interesting discussion touched on areas such as the gathering momentum for embedding a human rights approach in Scottish policy, and the need for a commitment at the top level to push the patient voice and lead culture change. But there were also some more modest ambitions. Could more be done to help people get off to a good start by creating a more welcoming environment, we asked. Are we spending enough time with patients? Are we mindful that people may be afraid to tell a health professional what they really thought of their care – perhaps we could consider asking more independent volunteers to help collect feedback?

The project is keen to find out what is working well already and where improvements can be made. If you can’t make it along to one of the events then they will be holding a Twitter chat using #SVScot14 on 16 October, 2-3pm. Or you can use the hashtag to catch up and join in anytime. Of course, other more traditional engagement methods are also available and they are keen to hear from as many people as possible.

As project team chair, Erica Reid tweeted: “It’s all about listening and acting on what we hear to create a stronger voice together.” 

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