PIF’s membership is rich and diverse. There are representatives in hundreds of information producing organisations across the UK, working in every sector. They have a wealth of experience and skill. Every month we aim to highlight the work of one of PIF’s members. This month we speak to Nicki Bickford.

What is your current role and what do you enjoy about it?

I am the Patient Information Manager at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust. We are a team of three staff which is considered a large team when compared to many other Trusts, but I assure you that we never have enough time to do everything we want to do!

There are just over 17,000 staff across Guy’s, St Thomas’, our children’s hospital Evelina London, and our community services in Lambeth and Southwark.  We have around 2.6 million patient contacts each year making us one of the UK’s busiest NHS foundation trusts.

Working in such a large and complex organisation comes with many challenges. For starters, the Trust has over 1,400 live patient information leaflets, which we review on a three yearly basis and just keeping all these leaflets in date is an ongoing task for us.

There are lots of talented people in the Trust with innovative ideas about how we should be creating and sharing our information in different ways. A key role for me is to ensure these ideas fit in with the Trust’s strategy; provide information that is not available anywhere else, either within the Trust or externally; are essential to support patient care; will benefit a wide audience; offers good value for money and are a good use of staff resources.

Providing a source of information that is informative, but in particular, is reassuring to patients, parents or carers at a time when they are feeling vulnerable and scared is the most rewarding aspect of my job. We recently produced a short film for children about having an electroencephalogram (EEG) telemetry test in hospital or at home. It’s a scary looking procedure but by explaining it through the eyes of a child makes it look a lot less daunting.

What is the key area you are working on at the moment?

This year I plan to focus on making our information more accessible to a wider audience to reach the diverse and culturally rich communities within the boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark.  We have a range of Easy Read leaflets and large print leaflets for ophthalmology but there is much more we can do produce information that is accessible and inclusive.

What’s your biggest health information challenge?

Everyone is so very busy all of the time these days and I think my biggest challenge is to ensure that the team’s time is spent wisely and that we keep abreast of the ever changing demands of services across the Trust. There is a lot of talk about moving away from paper based information but before we consider that I need to be convinced that this is what our patients want.

We have to ensure the service we offer keeps up with evolving technology and ensure that our information is useful, relevant and maintainable. I think our biggest challenge is really being sure that the latest trends in technology from Apps and Podcasts to virtual reality are right for our patients before we introduce them too widely.

What’s the best bit about working in health information?

For me, this has to be that I have helped someone to make an informed decision about their care. That the information the patient has been given has everything they need to understand their condition, or the operation they are about to have, or how they need to look after themselves post-operatively.

What do you find useful about being a PIF member?

I have been working in this role for three years now and so it’s all still relatively new to me. Joining PIF gives me the opportunity to meet others within my field.  It also helps me to understand more about the responsibilities within my role and gives me ideas for future development and how we can grow the service.

What has been your ‘lightbulb’ moment whilst working in health information?

I think it’s imperative that we have the confidence to politely challenge when something is not right.  It’s been said before but it is my ‘go to’ benchmark in that if my parents won’t understand it, then neither will our patients. Our clinicians are usually the original authors and sometimes the wording can be too clinical or include confusing acronyms that no-one understands. Staff are busy and so emails going backwards and forwards trying to fine tune wording is often ineffective and annoying. I find it is usually much more effective to meet up with the author and talk through what message they are trying to get across and agree wording in plainer English.

In my experience, investing a bit of time and patience, has resulted with a clinician being delighted with the end result. One very senior consultant said “And that’s the reason why you do what you do and I do what I do!”