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Appeal for Volunteers to Strengthen the Voice of Patients at UL Hospitals Group

Patient Council 2021
Members of the ULHG Patient Council (l to r) Elizabeth O’Leary, Declan McNamara (vice-chairman), John O’Neill, Michael Ryan, John Hannafin (chairman), Judy Ryan, Anne Fitzgibbon, Melody Buckley, Marie Killowry, Catherine English, Virginia O’Dowd, Janice Cahill, Niamh O’Grady, Prof Brian Lenehan, Colette Cowan, CEO, Niamh Hogan. Missing from the photo: Kay Caball, Jill Franz, Tammy Meaney, Bernadette Moore and Mike Dwane
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VOLUNTEERS are being sought to help improve services across UL Hospitals Group by joining the Patient Council.

The Patient Council was established in 2016 and provides an independent voice for patients, service users and their families. It gives patients and members of the public the opportunity to become involved as active partners in UL Hospitals Group and advise hospital management on improving patient experience.

The Council comprises volunteers from the general public as well as members of the hospital management team. It is currently looking to increase the number of public and expressions of interest are sought from people who have had experience of University Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, Croom Orthopaedic Hospital or University Maternity Hospital Limerick.

John Hannafin, Chairman of the Patient Council, said that in the course of its ordinary work and through its engagement on a wide range of hospital committees- including Nutrition and Hydration, the National Inpatient Experience Survey, End-of-Life Care, Patient Flow, and many others – the Patient Council was having a positive impact in improving services across the Group.

Patients Council UHL HS15.jpg
John Hannafin, Chairman, Patient Council, UL Hospitals Group

“The pandemic has greatly disrupted the work of the Council as it has affected the entirety of the health service and society as a whole. As we look to exit the emergency phase of the pandemic, we are looking for new public members to assist the Council in meeting the new challenges and the new opportunities that have become apparent over the past 18 months.

“We are looking forward to strengthening the voice of patients through bolstering the membership of the Council. We are appealing to members of the public who have had direct experience of the six hospitals- either as a patient or as a relative – to consider making an application to join the Patient Council. This work can make a difference,” said Mr Hannafin.

Niamh Hogan, Patient Advocacy and Liaison Services (PALS) Manager, UL Hospitals Group, said the Council was an essential element in promoting a culture of patient partnership across the six hospitals.

“We have various ways of gathering patient feedback, through surveys, through research and quality improvement projects, through the complaints process and by other means. In the shape of the Patient Council, we also have a formal structure that meets regularly and through which the voice of our service users and their loved ones is articulated and acted upon. Only by having truly meaningful engagement of this kind can we build the trust and confidence needed to improve our services,” Ms Hogan said.

Colette Cowan, CEO, UL Hospitals Group, said: “The last 18 months have been really difficult on patients and their families as well as staff. Compliance with the public health guidelines and infection prevention and control precautions led to severe restrictions on routine visiting as well as the suspension of volunteer activity. Staff redeployed to support patients and their loved ones keep in touch through virtual visits. But overall the life of the hospital was impoverished for all concerned. It has been hugely encouraging in recent weeks to see the gradual easing of visiting restrictions and the return of our PALS volunteers. We are also seeking to boost our Patient Advocacy and Liaison Service through recruitment

“The Patient Council is another key element in ensuring that our service users and their loved ones have their voices heard. We welcome applications to join the Patient Council from across the MidWest as we look to further that partnership,” Ms Cowan said.

Applicants will be invited for interview and successful candidates will have Garda Vetting and reference checks before being invited to join the Patient Council. The Patient Council will meet every six to eight weeks and we estimate that a time commitment of approx. two hours per month would be required.

If you are interested in becoming part of the UL Hospitals Group Patient Council, please contact Niamh Hogan or Liz O’Leary, Patient Advocacy Liaison Managers via email at uhlpals@hse.ie or 061 482448 or 061 485259. Applications are open until Sunday 31st October 2021.