15 step challenge: What kind of care can you expect when walking onto a hospital ward?

Two volunteers from Healthwatch Northamptonshire worked with a local hospital to make real changes for the patients. Find out why this important work won them a 2020 Healthwatch network award.
Sheila and Wendy
I can tell what kind of care my daughter is going to get within 15 steps of walking onto every new ward.

Sheila and Wendy, two volunteers from Healthwatch Northamptonshire, have been commended for their work on the '15 Step Challenge’, as a result of their involvement and recommendations.

The project saw the two volunteers complete over 40 visits to 36 wards at Kettering General Hospital, gathering the feedback of patients and working closely with the hospital to make improvements.

Changes included the reintroduction of hospital radio, and a designated row of priority seating for people in A&E installed. In some cases, they were able to make recommendations that could be resolved by the end of their visit.

The continuous commitment of Sheila and Wendy to engage with patients and staff, ensured everyone’s voices were heard and considered, as well as promoting feedback and information sharing with the hospital.

Sheila and Wendy supported the hospital to implement their recommendations and took complete lead on this work. This included sharing multiple responsibilities, like visit planning, communication, reporting, and engaging with patients and staff. The regular attendance at Kettering General Hospital’s various meetings meant the pair were able to maintain working relationships with the hospital and share updates on their work.

Three changes made in direct response to Sheila and Wendy’s recommendations

  1. Designated row of priority seating for people in A&E installed.

  2. Plans to extend, redecorate and reorganise specific areas, to increase space and promote privacy and safety.
  3. Reintroduction of hospital radio.

Take a look at the report to see the full list of improvements made.

Making a difference with other hospitals in the County

Northampton General Hospital is now looking to do the same visits with two other members of Healthwatch Northamptonshire’s volunteer team, with support from Sheila and Wendy.

Making a difference with local Healthwatch

Becoming experts by experience, Sheila and Wendy created their own detailed 15 steps document to help them conduct visits and report back to staff. This document has been shared with all staff and volunteers to support them in other 15 steps visits. As their work has proved so effective, Sheila ran 15 steps training for other volunteers and Healthwatch Northamptonshire staff.

The 15 Steps Challenge

The 15 Steps Challenge focuses on seeing care through a patient or carer’s eyes and exploring their first impressions. Inspired by a powerful statement, from a mother whose daughter needed frequent inpatient stays, the challenge was developed by the NHS, and toolkits are available to replicate the project yourself.


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