The Psychiatric Teaching Unit (PTU) – based at the Radbourne Unit in Derby – has been highlighted as a finalist for the East Midlands NHS Recognition Awards, in the ‘excellence in patient experience’ category, for its innovative role in educating the psychiatrists of tomorrow through the use of personal experiences of mental ill health and encouraging the students to listen and learn from those who know best: the patients and their carers.
Only medical teaching unit of its kind
Our unique PTU is the only medical teaching unit of its kind to offers undergraduate students an opportunity to put their university-taught theory to the test before qualifying, by doing practice consultations with a group of ‘expert patients’ who then offer feedback about the students’ communication skills.
Alexa Sidwell, Clinical Teacher for Derbyshire Healthcare’s Psychiatric Teaching Unit, said: “We are absolutely delighted that our efforts to provide fourth year University of Nottingham medical students with the skills required to care for and communicate with people who are experiencing mental ill health have been recognised by the East Midlands Leadership Academy.
“We often hear that students find taking a psychiatric history to be one of the most complex communication tasks that they have to learn. Our unique expert patient programme eases this pressure by bringing together over 30 individuals with lived experience of mental health who are willing to be asked questions about their condition, their history and their family background, just as would happen in a real outpatient appointment.
“When the appointment is over, the expert patients complete a form to assess the student's approach – how well they made them feel at ease, for example – and then verbally feeds this back to the student, sometimes telling them too how they could improve.”
A supportive and caring team
Not only do patients offer training as part of the Psychiatry Teaching Unit, they also inform the overall running of the Psychiatry Teaching Unit (PTU). Supporting the expert patients are two lived experience development workers – two individuals with personal experience of mental ill health, who have formerly used Derbyshire Healthcare’s services – who serve as the point of contact between the unit and the 'expert patients' and ensure that the expert patients' voices are heard right the way through the unit.
One of these lived experience development workers, John Ryalls, explained: "The expert patients themselves tell us that they benefit in terms of self-esteem and confidence; we’re told that it sometimes helps them to practise what they’re going to say to their own consultants when they meet them.
The expert patient programme "lifted my self-esteem to crazy levels"
“What it did for my self-esteem more than anything was to lift it to crazy levels, beyond what I’ve felt for a long time. I’m very negative about what I achieve or don’t achieve, and this has been a big achievement. It’s given me a chance to put something back, and I think the support we get, as well as working with people who may have got similar illnesses – it’s certainly changed my life, and changed my life for the better."
Now in its fourth year, the East Midlands NHS Recognition Awards – run by the East Midlands Leadership Academy – celebrates leaders at all levels and across all professions, especially those who have ultimately improved people’s health and the public’s experience of the NHS.
The winner of the award will be announced at the East Midlands NHS Recognition Awards ceremony on 1 December 2016 at St Martin’s House and Conference Centre in Leicester.