Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, shares her views on how patient care has evolved over the past two decades. The organisation celebrates its 60th anniversary in 2023 and has witnessed some significant changes in the culture around patient care, during this time. Here, Rachel reflects on the progress achieved and what still needs to improve.
In many ways our work hasn’t changed. The Patients Association’s was established in January 1963 by teacher Helen Hodgson, who was moved to establish the organisation by “reports on thalidomide babies, wrong patient operations and tests on patients”. These three elements – safety, rights, and ethics – continue to inform our work.
But what has changed is that, with our strategy focusing on embedding patient partnership across the health and social system, we see ourselves as part of the solution, rather than just a critic.
In 2013, following publication of the findings of the public inquiry into Mid Staffs, we started to work with NHS Trusts to improve their complaints handling. Our goal is to help them transform into learning organisations, valuing what patients say and acting on it, not least when things go wrong. Over the last 20 years we have had to call out safety issues time and time again, and many situations are caused by the abject failure of healthcare professionals to listen to patients or carers.
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