Putting patients at the heart of practice

New Centre for Medicine set to transform medical teaching, research and, ultimately, patient care


Patients Emma Smith (left) and Ian Prince (right) take part in the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Centre for Medicine building, with Vice-Chancellor Professor Sir Robert Burgess (centre)

When Guinness World Record holder Ian Prince was testing a racing motorcycle in February 2009, his life changed forever. A life-threatening crash put Ian on a ventilator with just a 30 per cent chance of survival. Now five years later, he is one of the patients at the heart of the University's plans to transform medical education.

Patients' voices will be a key feature in the University's new £42 million Centre for Medicine, which will focus on training tomorrow's doctors to radically improve the patient experience by delivering safe and compassionate care. Ian, who once hit the record books as part of a team deadlifting the most weight in 24 hours, is involved in a patient consortium which will help shape this unprecedented approach to medical teaching.

"It can be very easy to treat patients as another part of the hospital and forget the human behind the medical problem," says Ian. "How doctors behave really does have an impact on patients and their families. In my experience, the majority of healthcare staff are highly professional, but they can be let down by a minority.

"I hope my experiences as a patient with a brain injury are valuable to trainee doctors when placed alongside their textbooks. It must be difficult for doctors dealing with people on a daily basis who have complex health needs and don't want to be where they are. I hope that my insight can benefit both patients and future doctors."

Committed to combining teaching and training with applied research to offer improved patient treatment and care, the new Centre will allow staff to harness state-of-the-art technologies, enabling teaching to be delivered innovatively.

Centre for medicine

One innovation that is currently being explored is the concept of 'beaming up' patient consultations, enabling students to witness live appointments to aid their learning. "It is becoming increasingly difficult for all students to see patients with the full range of diseases they need to experience during their training," explains Nick London, Professor of Surgery and Head of the Department of Medical and Social Care Education.

"By streaming consultations live into the lecture theatres, our students will receive a much more vibrant educational experience that will replicate real-life practice and provide students with invaluable practical experience."

This unique approach to medical education will help to produce future doctors who are not just technically competent, but who are also able to deliver high quality patient care in an effective and compassionate manner.

"I can't emphasise enough how important it is to be treated by compassionate doctors, health and social care professionals," adds Emma Smith who, like Ian, is helping to transform medical education at Leicester. "Not everyone responds in the same way to conditions and it makes all the difference to be treated by professionals who recognise this."

Emma was just weeks away from finishing her degree in speech and language therapy when she was involved in a terrible road traffic accident. She hopes to help students to relate to her life-changing experience of receiving treatment for severe brain injuries and a broken pelvis.

Construction has already begun on the new facility, which is set to open in autumn 2015 to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the University's Medical School.

A diverse view

Anjuu* from Leicester suffers from chronic osteoarthritis and varicose veins. She is a full-time carer for her bipolar husband and tow sons. Eighteen years ago she tried to take her own life.

Today, Anjuu is a member of the University of Leicester's patient consortium and is sharing her experiences with students to improve practice and the quality of patient care, particularly for members of the Asian community. The diversity of Leicester's population puts us in a unique position to undertake life-changing medical research that will especially benefit the many ethnic groups who live in the city.

"Sometimes I do find it difficult to cope with life," says Anjuu who feels like she would be 'shunned' within her community for discussing her worries. "Typically, members of the Asian community don't talk about their problems; men are especially encouraged to present the view of the perfect family to the outside world.

"I have really enjoyed meeting medical students from the University. When I was younger I was much more outgoing, but these days I hae regular nightmares and find it too painful to continue my hobby of Asian dancing.

"Doctors have always been very good to me and I hope that by sharing my experiences I will be helping to ensure others receive the best quality of treatment and care. It's fantastic that the University is really listening to its patients."

*The patient's name has been changed to protect her identity.

*This article was first published in the Spring 2014 issue of Graduates’ Review, the University of Leicester’s alumni and supporters’ magazine.

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