A new programme that places student nurses in the South West at the heart of primary care patient engagement groups has been unveiled by Plymouth University.
Under a pilot scheme, students on Plymouth’s adult nursing degree have been working with patient participation groups at local GP surgeries.
“The commitment of students and staff to real patient engagement has been impressive”
The pilot scheme – thought to be the first in the country – has involved 23 GP surgeries, from St Ives and Falmouth in Cornwall, to Exeter and Torquay in Devon.
It has seen students lead on social media campaigns, run communication sessions on issues such as sexual health, and raise awareness of vaccination programmes for young mothers.
The project’s findings are due to be presented at a health conference this Thursday, organised by the Patients Association and NHS England.
Kim Young, lead for patient engagement in the university’s school of nursing and midwifery, has been heading the project with the support of the Patients Association.
She said: “This is about championing the idea of ‘patients as partners’, and providing nurses with the people skills that will serve them in good stead when they start their career in a clinical care setting.
“It supplements the existing activities that student nurses currently engage in during their clinical placement periods, and the project itself has the potential to make an important contribution to our local communities,” she said.
“I was able to go to the surgery and brainstorm with them – it was a totally new approach”
Megan Betts was one of the student nurses who volunteered for the programme. She was partnered with a GP surgery in Falmouth for three months.
While there, she created a patient experience questionnaire, updated vaccination information leaflets with details of the new meningitis B vaccine and also helped the practice to use social media more effectively.
She said: “I was able to go to the surgery and brainstorm with them – it was a totally new approach, both for them and for us as nursing students.
“In the case of my GP surgery, they really struggle to get young mums into see them – but there are many more issues that, longer term, this programme could help with, such as working with young adults on sexual health and sun protection in the summer,” she added.
The university said discussions were under way to roll out the idea across its school of nursing and midwifery next year, working with the 200-plus patient participation groups in the South West.
The details of the project will be presented at the conference on Thursday, which will be attended by several hundred delegates from NHS England and clinical commissioning groups.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, described the project as an “exciting new initiative”, which she hoped would spread to other parts of the country.
“The commitment of students and staff to real patient engagement has been impressive and we hope this will be the start of a long-term relationship that will go from strength to strength and include all GP practice patient participation groups,” she said.