December Newsletter – Vale Val

December saw the retirement after 10 years with MAC of founding partner Val Moore. Actually Val’s contribution predates MAC’s establishment in 2003 because as early as mid-2001 she and Andrew Craig were working as a team developing the NCC’s Stronger Voice consumer representative training package into a “Stronger Voice in Health” resource and piloting it in Wandsworth with the local NHS, the Council and Third Sector bodies.  It was ground-breaking work.  As we are starting getting used to thinking of ourselves as Millar Adamson Craig – lucky break that Caroline’s surname fits the MAC rubric – this end of year Newsletter pays tribute to Val’s contribution. “

The most recent blog Val Moore wrote was a classic giving a clear insight into her preferred perspective.  The title says it all – I, The Patient. It is worth quoting what Val wrote at some length:

I don’t think anyone can appreciate the truth of this statement until they have been a patient themselves. Until recently, I had always been a fit healthy person. I had worked for years for the NCC – an organisation promoting consumer rights and so I thought I knew what “consumers” of the health service felt like. Then I joined the MAC partnership training and consulting about user empowerment in public services including health and I was even more sure that I understood what “user empowerment” meant. And, for the last few years, I have been an active member of the Patient Group at my GP surgery which added to my conviction that I understood what patients think and want. But it was not until I had serious health problems myself that I realised what it really means to be a patient. Then, for the first time I understood first hand the feeling of vulnerability and powerlessness that patients feel. Only then did I realise how easy it is for well-meaning doctors to sound patronising when they talk to patients and to assume that it’s not worth making sure the patient understands their medical condition or has any say in their treatment.

The themes are all there and Val lived those concerns. She was the one who made sure that if we had a training session for patient reps that the transport met their needs, that we laid on some food and refreshment and that what we had to say was understood and appropriate for everybody in the room. We have made the point often enough in the past that the patient engagement industry suffers badly from the condition we named ‘guidelinitis’ where good and well-meant theoretical advice is issued in great abundance – it used to be paper; now web-pages. In contrast, Val insisted on dealing with the topic in the real world.

It was this focus that lead to her interest in the management approach of ‘policy governance’ – the approach to an organisation’s governance defined by her long time friend Caroline Oliver . She hosted many a board meeting of the fledgling organisation and worked hard at early pilot projects supporting and facilitating the teams put together to deliver the work.

Our regret is only that Val could not be persuaded to contribute to these pages more often. All the more so since she wrote wonderful emailed narratives about her own life, recently filled with a few trials and tribulations but always optimistic and concerned for others – humans and canines. We lifted whole passages from those emails and made them the centrepiece of blogs focusing on the real world which Val triumphantly inhabits and makes more fun for us and all her legion of friends. You can see the more recent examples of the writings of Val here.

She was the human heart of the partnership and its most active social entrepreneur – social in all its senses. We have to hope that the Partners can still look forward to the pleasures of her conversation and table. Her commitment to bringing people together is summed up in this blog from June 2007.

Of the eight pieces that we have blogged since the last newsletter, she would have been most interested perhaps in evidence that patients and users were not demanding enough but cheered by evidence of service improvement as seen through users’ eyes when I  revisited the blood sample clinic of my local community hospital. Another great interest of hers was the training and support of future patient leaders and their followers and she was cheered by the start-up in Hackney of the work to establish the new Healthwatch.

As a long standing member of her local GP Patient Liaison Group, she needed no telling about the need for new ways of thinking about the way that patients become engaged in the future and disappointed by any research that suggested that the new CCGs were not seizing that opportunity for innovation. Having had a go herself at feeding back her views on what went well and what did not in recent encounters with the NHS, Val would not have been surprised by the disappointing and disappointed tone of the Ombudsman writing about poor NHS complaint handling. Andrew talked in his blog about the NHS being the Celestial City of QIPP – check it out here. Val is realistic enough not to hold her breath till we see that glorious day. Val would have told Augustine (of Hippo – hip name, crazy place) in no uncertain terms that the City of Man was more important and more interesting. No one has worked harder in the past and will do so in the future to make that a better place. She has no time for the grandees and high panjandrums of the NHS in Andrew’s most recent blog post.

Thanks Val.

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