Case study: Sheffield LINk

Sheffield Link is using Patient Opinion to hear what people are saying about local health services. Azizzum Akhtar explains.

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What is your role at Sheffield LINk?

I am the co-ordinator of Sheffield LINk. The LINk aims to give people a say in improving local health and social care services. My role is to manage the LINk Support Team and provide strategic and operational assistance to the LINK Governing Board.

How have you used Patient Opinion locally?

We have used Patient Opinion to gather evidence about a health service that the LINk is interested in.

We feel that Patient Opinion provides a different kind of information. It is real people's experiences rather than spreadsheets full of numbers and percentages. Both types of data are important, but real stories from real patients are particularly powerful.

What was involved in making this happen?

Our development officer, myself and Kate from Patient Opinion discussed the information that we wanted and we were provided with customised results and reports that met our requirements. It didn't take much effort: Patient Opinion is very responsive and all we had to do was ask for the information and it was promptly provided.

Has there been an impact for patients?

I can give you an example. We received feedback, through Patient Opinion, from a patient about their experience in the Northern General Hospital.

The patient was recovering from a hip replacement and went to have a shower. While the cubicle was nice and clean, it was very small and difficult to manoeuvre about in due to having a high step and insufficient grab rails. The patient also found that the curtain hadn't kept the water in the shower and so there was water over the floor making it slippery. Although there was a chair in the room, it was an ordinary stacking chair with no armrest and was very low. In the end the patient was forced to call for assistance.

Sheffield LINk contacted Sheffield Teaching Hospital Foundation Trust about the story, and a few weeks later, we received this response from the head of patient partnership at the trust:

'We acknowledge that the showers on the Huntsman wards could be further improved and we do have plans to convert the showers to "wet rooms".

Over the last couple of years we have been upgrading the Brearley and Huntsman wards. Huntsman 6 and 7 have been upgraded, and this has included changing traditional showers and bathrooms to wet rooms.

This programme is continuing and this year the Trust will complete 3 full ward upgrades - Brearley 4, Firth 2 and L2. The provisional date for further improvements to Huntsman wards is next year.'

Patient Opinion published this response on the web site underneath the original patient story so everyone could stay informed about what was happening.

How have you made sure service users/carers know about Patient Opinion?

We have informed our members regularly about the Patient Opinion service through our bulletin that goes to over 300 individual members and dozens of organisations and the voluntary service networks too.

What would you say to other LINks?

I would encourage other LINks to use Patient Opinion to help meet their aims of finding out what people think about health services.

How are you planning to use Patient Opinion in the future?

We plan to monitor Patient Opinion for stories that may be of interest to the LINk (and we would like Patient Opinion to draw our attention to any they feel are particularly suitable for LINk involvement). We also will continue to use Patient Opinion as part of our research into issues. Where issues are brought to our attention we can use Patient Opinion to corroborate the data.

Find out more on the Sheffield LINk website