Insights from the Picker and Point of Care Foundation Symposium 

On 2nd November 2023, Picker and the Point of Care Foundation hosted a symposium on care experiences. Picker’s CEO, Chris Graham, reflects on the day.

It has been thirty years since the publication of the seminal Through the Patient’s Eyes, the Picker & Commonwealth Program for Patient-Centred Care sponsored book that provided a critical milestone in the development of the patient experience approach.  

Since then, person centred care has been embraced by policy makers and organisations, and the measurement of people’s experiences has become a part of normal practice. In parallel, there has been growing interest in the critical role of workforce experience and wellbeing – again supported by measurement programmes like England’s NHS Staff Survey. The links between patient and staff experience are well recognised, and we have more data than ever to help us understand these. Despite this, conversations about the experiences of staff and patients too often feel isolated and siloed, and evidence of sharp declines in the quality of people’s experiences post Covid can feel demoralising.  

Our care experience symposium, hosted with the wonderful team at fellow charity the Point of Care Foundation, sought to address these vexing issues. We wanted to take a holistic look at experiences of care, and to consider how stories and data alike can drive positive, lasting change. In keeping with the goals of both organisations, we wanted to influence, inspire, and empower attendees to help them think radically about improving the way we care and are cared for.  And we wanted to live our principles, by inviting care professionals and people with lived experience alike and by listening to their stories.  

The result was a symposium that felt very different to a ‘typical’ health and care conference. Whilst we had some fantastic speakers, the day was as much about contributions from attendees. This was especially true of the afternoon’s Schwartz Round session – a highlight for many – where guests took turns to share their own views and stories with remarkable and often moving honesty and insight.   

There were, in my opinion, a number of important themes that emerged through the day:  

  • Seeing “the person, not the patient”: recognising the wider needs and desires of people accessing care, not just their immediate health conditions. This is fundamental to person centred care but remains a powerful message – and presentations from clinicians with personal experiences of receiving care, as well as contributions from people with lived experience, spoke to how vital this is to humanising care.  
  • The importance of welcoming the involvement of families: two speakers gave accounts of their experiences of caring for family members; others gave examples of how welcoming the involvement of families can transform people’s experiences and, conversely, how a failure to listen to families can be catastrophic.  
  • The profound and lasting impact of health experiences on patients and staff alike: people from a range of backgrounds gave touching and honest accounts of the personal impact of care interactions, and how these have stayed with them – often for many years. Experiences could be positive or negative, but what stood out was the powerful associations that these had: a reminder that even the simplest of interactions can transform a person’s experience and stay with them.  
  • The power of storytelling and the value of data: the messages above are themselves a testament to the power of stories – many people I spoke to commented on how much other people’s accounts resonated with them. Similarly, we heard great examples of organisations using patient and staff experience data to drive meaningful improvement – showing that both collective and individual experiences have a crucial role in understanding and improving care.  

I’m so glad that we had the opportunity to present this novel and different event, and I’m so grateful both to our cohosts at the Point of Care Foundation, to our brilliant speakers and facilitators, and to all of our incredible guests. It was a memorable day, and I look forward to more like it in the future.  

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