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The University of Southampton
Health Sciences

Students help improve health and social services across the region

Over 700 students each year from the University of Southampton and Portsmouth are helping health and social care professionals across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight improve how their services are delivered.

The students are part of The Service Improvement Project initiated by Common Learning - a multi-collaboration between the Universities of Southampton and Portsmouth, NHS Trusts, social services, and the private, voluntary and independent (PVI) sector across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. 

Now in its seventh year, over 7,500 Southampton and Portsmouth students from the project studying midwifery, nursing, medicine, physiotherapy, podiatry, social work, occupational therapy, audiology and radiography have worked alongside health and social care professionals, observing and enquiring into how services are delivered in practice and reporting back their ideas for improvements. 

Many of the students' suggestions have been adopted and put into practice by the organisations involved.  One of these is Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which made improvements to its discharge process following students' observations.  The Trust's outpatients unit also implemented some of the students' suggestions to improve its telephone appointment reminder service with the aim of reducing non-attendance rates. 

The University of Southampton's interprofessional lead for this unit, Maggie Duckett, says "Health and social care students just about to qualify have some of the most up-to-date knowledge within health and social care practice.  Not only do they provide a fresh pair of eyes but they are also sympathetic to the challenges the current economic situation poses.  

"With increasing practical responsibilities and less ‘thinking' time available to health and social care professionals, these enthusiastic students are a vital tool in providing fresh insight into service practices. Their reports incite valued discussion amongst professionals and often lead to new initiatives being introduced in the real world." 

The initiative also includes an audit related project during the students' second year.  An audit is where the changes, once instigated, can be evaluated for their effectiveness in helping the services to meet standards, underpinning assessment and development of quality.  Services cannot survive without evidence of the care they provide and having a group of year two students can help as they provide a guaranteed audit report within two weeks. 

Felicity Hargreaves from NHS South Central says "In order to deliver health and social services centred specifically on the needs of patients it is vital to support improving working relationships and communication between the professionals involved. 

"In addition to being an incredibly valuable experience for students, the Service Improvement acts as a platform for Common Learning Teams and Practice Group members to meet and discuss interprofessional working and learning in practice" 

The Universities' Common Learning Programme wants to encourage participation from health and social services to keep this beneficial project alive.   Facilitators and interested services should get in contact with admin@commonlearning.net or contact Maggie Duckett on 02380-597848 or Helen Evered 02392  845395.

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