Last week Ness and I found ourselves at Weston General Hospital A&E. Thankfully, our visit was a planned one, in support of a project we are doing with the NHS Institute for Excellence and Innovation into how we can use patient and staff experience to improve Ambulatory Care services.
Before I go any further I think it’s only right that I break down what Ambulatory Care actually is. The term is derived from the word ambulant, meaning walking, and refers to treatments that can be provided to patients on the same day, without the need for an overnight stay in hospital.
Within the NHS there is strong support for extending Ambulatory Care services in hospitals. For the NHS, Ambulatory Care is appreciated for reducing the number of people admitted overnight to hospitals and so reducing costs. For patients, Ambulatory Care can offer a convenient alternative to an overnight hospital stay.
In recognition the growing importance of Ambulatory Care, the NHS Institute asked thinkpublic to investigate how these services can use insights from patients and staff to drive future service improvement. Responding to the brief, we arranged a series of visits to hospital throughout the country, each at a different stage of developing Ambulatory Care services.
We designed we designed a number of tools to support our visits. On our visit to Weston General, we asked staff to photograph key elements of their service from both staff and patient perspectives. These images then facilitated a group discussion, with staff exploring how each group experiences or feels about the service, using descriptive adjectives such as ‘happy’, ‘sad’, ‘comfortable’ and ‘anxious’. Later on, patients were encouraged to use a basic storyboard tool to reflect on their experiences at different points in the service. We also made use of informally conversations and observation to understand how the service was working.
Overall, our visit to Weston-Super-Mare was extremely worthwhile. The Ambulatory Care team were incredibly welcoming and generous with both their time and insights into how their service works. Likewise, it was a privilege to be able to spend time with and learn from so many of Weston’s patients.
We’re still reflecting on our visit but already it is clear that it has yielded valuable insights. For instance, staff identified signs to the Ambulatory unit as a source of confusion for patients and irritation for staff. Elsewhere, patients told us simple things such as staff greeting them by their first names made them feel at ease. By acting on these insights, Ambulatory Care services will be able to improve patient and staff experience of their service.
Over the coming weeks we will develop a more detailed appreciation of how patients and staff currently experience Ambulatory Care and where improvement opportunities exist. We will also be exploring with patients and staff how services can better capture and make use of experience-based insights in their everyday works. We will, of course, let you know how we get on.