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Patients as partners in the health system

A guide from King’s Fund helping to build collaborative relationships among health and care professionals, patients, service users, carers and UK society.

This guide published by the King’s Fund and titled “Patients as Partners – Building collaborative relationships among professionals, patients, carers and communities”, highlights the importance of the collaboration of all health players for the future of the NHS (National Health Service), the health system of the United Kingdom.

What helps to build collaborative relationships among health and care professionals, patients, service users, carers and communities? This guide is a response to that question. For the King’s Fund, health system actors must work more together, but especially develop new approaches to collaborate differently.

In this guide, 5 practices are particularly recommended:

  1. Finding your ideal collaboration partner: For a patient or practitioner who wants to develop an idea to improve the health system performance, collaboration with another health care provider is essential. Successful collaboration means that everything is shared – for example, establishing a common goal, working toward shared ambition, exercising shared leadership, sharing ownership and responsibility. It is therefore important to find a partner from another position who shares your motivation and who is committed to solving a problem in the health sector. To develop this guide, the King’s Fund has implemented this measure, forming working groups with patients and professionals from different areas of health. This would avoid unilateral proposals that do not take into account the needs of all health stakeholders.
  • Invest in developing leadership and collaborative relationships:
    For sustainable and successful collaboration between the patient and the health system, it is important not only to put in place frameworks or governance structures. Patients and health professionals need to be enabled to develop social and leadership skills: to be able to engage in dialogue, build trust in a culturally diverse group, express a common purpose, be able to ask relevant questions, influence stakeholders. To help patients develop these soft skills, which are useful in their collaborative approach, The King’s Fund advocates, for example, the establishment of community ambassador programs to train community members or collaborative trio programs between clinicians, managers and patients / community partners. These measures should allow patients to better intervene in the working groups.
  • Make time for learning – and share it: In order for the patient to benefit from a collaborative process with health professionals, the King’s Fund advocates capturing knowledge and sharing it as much as possible with those around them or those whom the patient wishes to influence. For this reason, the King’s Fund advises the patient collaborator to set up learning exchange sessions with other collaborators in his region. It recommends that institutions integrate collaborative leadership development into their organizational development plan.
  • Follow Dynamic Movements: It is possible that the way the patient works or wants to work is not consistent with traditional processes and therefore poses a challenge to established norms and power dynamics. If it is legitimate to “go where the energy is” in the local system and work under the radar to collaborative projects, the patient must also express himself when he wants to collaborate differently.
  • Embed collaborative activity: One way to make collaborative relationships become a sustainable reality for patients is to integrate collaborative activity across all levels of health organizations or systems.

An example of success in positioning the patient as a partner in their care is the experience of the West London Collaborative. The West London Collaborative is a locally owned and operated organisation that has been collaborating in North-western London for two years between patients, communities and health professionals. The West London Mental Health Trust has engaged this institution to review their own current drug decision-making processes. It is a question of rethinking the organization of health, not only taking into account the opinion of the users but considering them as an expert in its own right.

Source : Becky Seale “Patients as parteners: Building collaborative relationships among professionals, patients, careers and communities”, June 2016,  The King’s Fund ; Ideas that change health care.