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Sarah Tilsed: Partnering with patients in the development of the outpatient strategy

Sarah Tilsed

It really is important that patients feed into the design and delivery of this service, as they know what is and isn’t working for them in terms of their care.

The Patients Association has been working with Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and NHS England (NHSE) on the development of the outpatient strategy, ensuring that the patient voice is heard throughout. As head of patient partnership, I champion the patient voice in our work and the work of other organisations. As the outpatient service is such a pivotal part of the NHS and is visited by millions of patients, it really is important that patients feed into the design and delivery of this service, as they know what is and isn’t working for them in terms of their care.

We ran two patient panels on outpatient services in the past couple of months, made up of people who regularly use it. The first panel discussed what currently works well and what could be improved, and the second focused more specifically on access. For each of these, a report was written and given to RCP and NHSE staff involved in the work of the outpatient strategy development. This is what we, as the Patients Association, see as one of our USPs – convening diverse focus groups to ensure that the patient voice is listened to and the report of this being used by an organisation to improve their services or ways of working.

Shortly after the first patient panel, an outpatient summit was held, hosted by the RCP and NHSE. Some of the panel members attended this and there was very positive feedback from them about how the day went, with patients feeling listened to and included – whether attending virtually or in person.

Patient panel

A big thank you to everyone … It was inspirational … and I was made to feel very welcome … It was better co-production than I expected … and I felt energised at the end of the day.

Members of the patient panel will continue to feed into this important piece of work by attending the panels and summits, each with a focus on a different theme. We are pleased to be partnering on this as it ties in with our theory of change – if patient input is actively sought, genuinely valued and meaningfully acted upon, then this can feed into healthcare organisations developing services with patients so they identify and meet all the needs of different patient groups. This can then result in patients being equal partners in the designing of health and care services. And as well as patients routinely participating in their care as equal partners, in line with good practice, we start to see true patient partnership taking shape.

There was great energy from everyone throughout the day and I was really pleased that there was a patient or carer at each table, who were really listened to. The discussions were so engaging between everyone, and the questions posed were well thought-out.

Through the Patients Association’s helpline, lived experience advisory panel, Patient Voices Matter, focus groups and surveys, we hear over and over from patients that accessibility, communication and person-centred care need to be improved and hopefully this will start to take effect through the new outpatient strategy.

If you use the health and social care system and would like to use your experience by being involved in similar work in the future with a variety of organisations, please sign up as a free member of the Patients Association. And if you are an organisation that would like to work with us, please get in contact with me at


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