‘Inspiring Stories’ with Michelle Smith

Artistic Director, Theatre For Life

This is part of the Engaged Medicine ‚ÄėInspiring Stories‚Äô blog series. The blogs explore the stories behind outreach and patient-public engagement activities of staff and students from the University of Southampton‚Äôs Faculty of Medicine. This month’s edition also features guest blogs from those working at the interface between the humanities, arts and medicine.

What do you do to engage and outreach with the public or patients?

‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčRegeneration is a joint initiative between Southampton Children‚Äôs Hospital and Theatre for Life, supporting children and young people to engage with the arts, culture, nature, advice and physical activity.

Specifically aimed at young people with a long term medical condition, it helps them to recover from COVID-19 through the power of social prescribing.

Regeneration gives young people the opportunity to not only manage their own health and wellbeing, but also help them to become more physically active. The initiative also looks to reduce isolation and help those with a long term health condition to meet other young people, giving them a sense of belonging and enabling them to have peer support.‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč

What has driven you to participate in public engagement or patient involvement?

Our Regeneration team is lead by Sarah Shameti, youth worker at PEEER at Southampton Children’s Hospital with the support of Theatre for Life and Solent Mind.

We wanted to increase public engagement and patient involvement through social prescribing, rebuilding social interaction and connectivity with peers through activities which raise long-term aspiration. 

As a result of COVID-19 young people living with long term health conditions have experienced increased anxieties, isolation and educational disruption, many have continued to shield when schools have returned due to health needs or anxiety. 

With inconsistent periods of health and regular hospital admissions, our young people have often felt unable to maintain regular engagement through mainstream activities. 

By providing a diverse and holistic programme in the arts, sports, nature, wellbeing and advice we are able prescribe activities which meet diverse needs, including blended and hybrid offerings.

Patient involvement is at the forefront of Regeneration, we work with youth consultancy groups, liaison with primary care workers, parents and link workers to ensure our services are inclusive and accessible.

How did you get started with public engagement or patient involvement?

PEEER provides a holistic approach to young people living with long-term health conditions (LTHC), enhancing their wellbeing and management of their long term health condition. The work delivered focuses on addressing the social, educational and emotional impact of their condition, providing clinical advocacy and transition support to empower self-esteem and independence. Whilst the service provides many activities and interventions in-house, a large amount of the support is sourced from provisions locally to the young person.

Theatre for Life is a community led arts organisation for young people with limited access to the arts and from marginalised backgrounds. Solent Mind is the leading mental health charity in Hampshire. Both organisations have worked with patients through creative and wellbeing projects.

Why do you consider Public Engagement / Patient Involvement to be important?

Working with the young patients is imperative to understand their needs, interests and barriers to participation. More recently we have been able to measure the impact of the programme and some of the barriers that still remain due to Covid.

Parents/ guardians and young people have reported ongoing anxiety and concerns as we resume into in person activities. Other factors have included contracting COVID, hospital admissions (this has been most prominent with cardiac and cancer patients) and restrictions around Cystic Fibrous patients who are unable to share the same space.

We have devised a number of strategic approaches with the support of our partners and youth consultancy groups to help overcome some of these barriers. 

Using blended & hybrid approaches with both virtual and face-to-face participation we want to ensure all young people can join the activities. Our plan is to continue in- person activities which can be accessed at home in real-time by other attendees.

What reaction do you get during an engagement event?

The reactions during our engagement events have shown a significant increase in patient wellbeing, social interaction, sense of belonging and feeling connected.

Our engagement events have included:

  • 2 Outdoor activity days with Youth Options UK.
  • 5 day arts festival working with partners Theatre for Life, Zoie Logic, ArtfulScribe, So Co Music Project, Sound Pop Academy, In Focus, City Art Gallery and MAST Mayflower Studios.
  • 2 Multi-sports activity days.
  • 1 Wellbeing and Mindfulness day.
  • Wellbeing walks with the New Forest National Park Authority (Green prescribing).
  • Online Music sessions.
  • Movement Campaign with Zoie Logic and Solent Mind.

What do you feel is the impact of the engagement events, what happens as a result?

‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚Äč‚ÄčFor some of our young people the events have provided insights into new activities which they have continued beyond the programme. The commissioned projects have been co-designed with the patients allowing us to evolve as a social prescribing provider in align with their aspirations for the programme.

Stay Connected! To find out more about the ‚ÄėInspiring Stories‚Äô series, Faculty of Medicine educational programmes and research, or to get involved use the links below or contact Dr Lucy Green.

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University staff or students click here for the Engaged Medicine SharePoint

‘Inspiring Stories’ with Michelle Smith

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