Patient Voices

73 - Patient VoicesThe Patient Voices concept arose from the desire to transform healthcare by harnessing the power of patients' stories. Digital stories provide the perfect format with which to put patients' experiences firmly at the heart of healthcare.

Patient Voices are short digital stories combining a recorded voiceover, a few still images and some music that reveal patients’ experiences and feelings in a unique way. As the 2004 Patient Voices Rationale explains, these short stories can highlight gaps in the system, reveal near-misses, form 'free learning opportunities', promote healing and reconciliation, allow the voices of patients, carers and professionals to be heard and carry forward stories that might otherwise be lost. Created in a spirit of collaboration and partnership, the storytelling process serves as a model for co-production while touching hearts and reinforcing the notion of patients at the heart of care.

The Patient Voices Programme seeks to redress the balance of power between healthcare clinicians and managers and the people they serve, and to give decision-makers a different kind of opportunity to understand the needs of patients other than surveys and statistics. If patients are truly to be ‘at the heart of healthcare’, then their views and their stories are of paramount importance in any attempt to commission or transform health care services.

Stories are one of the most ancient of teaching and learning techniques, and are effective within and across diverse cultures. Stories can be used to communicate thoughts, concepts, values, visions and needs in a powerful way, offering a compelling and practical means of exploring issues and experiences from different perspectives, while promoting reflection and stimulating dialogue and debate.

Patient stories have been recognised as making a significant contribution to understanding the patient experience; they acknowledge the patient’s own areas of expertise: his or her own life and unique experience of illness. Research on public perceptions reveals that patients care much more about being treated with dignity, compassion and respect than they do about mortality rates.

The Patient Voices programme captures the unwritten and unspoken stories of ordinary people so that those who devise and implement strategy or commission services, as well as clinicians directly involved in care, may carry out their duties in a more informed and compassionate manner.

The BMJ award-winning programme offers the largest resource of freely accessible, digital stories about health and social care in the world. There are over 600 freely viewable stories on the website, told by people of different ages and backgrounds, from different cultures and countries, about different experiences and a wide range of conditions. Each story is as unique as the storyteller and yet each story reminds us of our shared humanity.

The Patient Voices programme was conceived and developed by Pilgrim Projects Limited. Pip Hardy of Pilgrim Projects told us about the impact of the programme:

‘When we started Patient Voices 11 years ago, we could never have imagined the impact it would have. At an individual level, storytellers speak to us of the sense of empowerment, validation and feeling heard that they gain from creating their own digital stories in their own way and under their own control.

Teams and organisations who have sponsored Patient Voices workshops report that the value of the storytelling process itself serves to heal and empower teams: that the stories created by patients or staff form the essential core of programmes that drive cultural change, service improvement and cost reduction, particularly when they engage with the process over a number of years.

One great example comes from Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust where we have been working for three years now. Service users and patients who have created stories sometimes come back to do a second workshop and many tell us that they feel better able to communicate effectively with clinical staff, while others stories are shown at the beginning of every Board meeting to focus the Board members on their raison d’etre, they are used in staff induction and training as well as in recruitment interviews. During this time, the Trust has experienced improved patient and staff satisfaction scores and significant reductions in complaints and clinical negligence claims. So it seems that listening, respect, dignity and compassion can not only improve care but can also save money!’

You can learn more about the Patient Voices story in Cultivating compassion: how digital storytelling is transforming healthcare.

View the Patient Voices digital short stories and find out more at
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