There is much talk of ‘co-production’ in public services these days. The idea is that if you allow the people who use the service at least an equal role in designing and managing it, you end up with a much better service.
This is a change of mindset which relies on professionals letting go some control and learning new skills.
But as the recently launched nocturnal home renal dialysis service in Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board (ABMUHB) shows, this approach really can be better than the way we usually work.
This innovative service is an excellent example of what can be done when staff and patients work together to make improvements.
It was established after staff were trained and empowered to deliver the change, and patients supported staff throughout the process because they really wanted the service to work.
Night time home haemodialysis is well established worldwide but in the UK there are only limited programmes and staff and patients discussed the benefits of introducing the service.
It is offered to patients with chronic kidney disease who need to have regular dialysis at a hospital – usually three times a week for around four hours each time.
The service enables patients to receive their treatment at home when they are asleep, which means dialysis can be done more slowly, and over a longer time period, so that it mimics what our kidneys do on a normal basis.
And the results have been amazing. There are now 14 patients receiving home renal dialysis making the ABMUHB programme the biggest in the UK.
The service has made a huge difference to the quality of patients’ lives, reducing the need to spend time in hospital for treatment, improving their health, reducing medication and enabling them to have a normal diet.
It is an excellent example of what can be achieved when the patient is put at the centre of care and was recognised nationally earlier this year with an NHS Wales Award.
As one patient said, ‘When people ask me why I prefer this new treatment the answer can be summed up in two words; freedom and choice. It’s given me my life back.’
This is a powerful argument for ‘co-production’ and one that should be shared as widely as possible.
Dr Alan Willson is one of the directors of 1000 Lives Plus