Peter Midlane is a founding member and recently appointed chairman of the Loxford Community Panel. Peter joined the panel to improve medical services, especially GP services, for himself, his sister and his neighbours. In the three or four years before the Loxford Polyclinic was built, several local GP practices had been amalgamated or closed down (six practices were affected as these were not fit for purpose) and Peter wanted to actively take part in improving local facilities and access for his community.
The Loxford Community Panel has improved the experience for patients in Redbridge through its direct involvement at each stage of the Loxford Polyclinic development. The café and pharmacy, transport and stakeholder mapping along with the look and feel of the building, including signage and selection of local artwork, were all directly influenced by the panel, and have ensured that the polyclinic genuinely reflects the healthcare needs of the local community.
“Not only have we been able to put comments forward to NHS Redbridge, but we have been listened to and are able to directly influence the outcome.”
The panel was established in April 2008 by NHS Redbridge (NHSR) to provide local residents with a meaningful opportunity to influence healthcare in their borough.
Although their original remit only included the development of the Loxford Polyclinic, the panel now focuses on the surrounding polysystem and the wider local engagement issues.
Amy Burgess, Community Engagement and Equalities Officer at NHSR, has been involved in the panel since the beginning. Amy feels that there is a real interest in healthcare in the borough and NHSR has spent time with the members to develop a relationship with them. This isn’t simply a tick box exercise for NHSR, but a real opportunity to make a difference and ensure patients are truly engaged in decisions about their healthcare.
“What is significant about the panel is that it is a partnership between NHSR and the members. The panel is community-owned and that sense of ownership is very important for the patients.”
The panel members
The panel represents a range of diverse backgrounds including nurses, a local councillor, civil servants, teachers, caterers and clinicians as well as a mix of religious beliefs and languages.
The panel consists of 15 core members although as many as 25 people have been involved at different stages. The clinical director and the chief officer for Loxford Polysystem also attend each meeting to provide direct continuity between NHSR and the panel members.
The remit of the panel
The topics for discussion are fed directly from either the NHSR, the patient surveys (following the opening of the Loxford Polyclinic) or directly by panel members. Project leaders for relevant work streams attend the meetings to discuss how the panel can influence the project. Peter Midlane said: “The atmosphere is relaxed, there is always a discussion about the topic and then we agree the way forward.”
Further success for the panel
Loxford Polyclinic currently provides over 30 community and voluntary services to the public. These range from yoga classes, dancing, counselling, support for carers and a domestic violence one-stop-shop.
The panel members assisted NHSR staff in selecting which community and voluntary groups would be offered space. The panel ensured a fair method was in place and chose groups based on the needs of the local people.
Peter can also see the benefits that this model has brought to the GPs. They are now more aware of community groups in the area and can offer these services to patients.
Peter and other panel members were also involved in the meeting and greeting of patients when the polyclinic first opened. They helped patients fill in surveys, overcoming any issues and concerns about language and fielded general questions. These surveys (which are intermittently sent around the clinic) are collated by NHSR and shared with the panel.
The format of this panel has been so successful that the model has been replicated across the borough. Four additional independent panels have been set up to work in partnership with the four other polysystems in the borough, resulting in a notable 100 people being actively engaged and able to influence decisions regarding healthcare services. Members from the Loxford Panel have offered advice to the new panel members and the lessons learnt from the original panel have been replicated in these models.
The Loxford Panel will continue to support its local residents and are about to start engaging with new emerging ethnic groups to ensure there is representation and support to all patients living within the borough.
Evaluation of patient and public engagement
We are currently conducting an independent evaluation of the polysystem model and are working with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Picker Institute and Imperial College London to ensure further patient and public engagement lessons can be shared across London whilst providing valuable learning for commissioners.