Norfolk three acute hospitals have agreed the first joint policy which will set the foundation for improved care and more efficient hospital services across Norfolk and Waveney.

The James Paget University Hospital (JPUH), the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH) and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn (QEH) will be introducing a shared consent policy from 1 November 2021.

It is the first of many policies being developed across the three Trusts which will ensure consistency in patient care and make it easier for clinical staff who move between sites.

Over 80 staff, drawn from different teams in the three Trusts, were involved in developing the new policy which aims to reduce serious incidents and complaints.

Dr Bernard Brett, Consultant and Deputy Director of Medicine at NNUH, who chaired the working group, said: “It has been a real privilege to lead a hard-working, professional team who have come together to deliver the policy which is very different from each organisation’s original version. This is the first key step towards ensuring that we have standardised procedure specific consent forms and patient information for procedures across the whole of Norfolk and Waveney.

“This will provide consistency for patients and staff, reduce risk, improve safety and will reduce unnecessary duplication and therefore improve efficiency. In addition it will be a significant building block as we progress towards working as a single team for the benefit of patients and staff across the whole of our integrated care system.’

Kelly Boyce, Head of Safeguarding (Interim) for JPUH, said: “This collaborative process has been a learning experience for many of us. Sharing best practice, policy and reaching a collective opinion has been so useful. The outcome of a standardised, well considered, transferable policy will support staff to know they will ‘get it right’ in whichever Trust they work. I am looking forward to using this approach with other policies.”

Martin Heywood, Legal Services Manager at QEH, said: “Being part of a good group with serious actors, do-ers and big brains made it for me – it went “better than expected” and we got a result that others can aim to match’

Patient representatives were also involved in the process to ensure the policy met their needs. Patient representative Richard Drew, said: “As the patient representative and having been involved since the inception of this successful unified Consent Policy I have always been made to feel a full participant in the process.”

Rosie from Healthwatch Norfolk felt it was “one of the most engaging online meetings I’ve been involved in – a brilliant way to review a policy and leave a meeting with clear outcomes.”

Mrs Downey, Consultant Breast Surgeon at JPUH, said: “I have enjoyed being part of the Consent group. It has felt that the task was broken down into bite size chunks. We established the principles we wanted to maintain early on and stuck to them pretty much. It was helpful to have everyone’s’ input as we each picked up areas of possible confusion from our wide range of clinical experience. I am most grateful for everyone’s help.”

Lydia Smith, Learning Disability Nurse Matron, at NNUH said: “Developing the policy alongside different Trusts, and the variety of professionals and patient representatives within the group, was a pleasure.

Cross-agency, multi-disciplinary working ensured that a wide range of perspectives were considered, and that there were no gaps or blindspots in the resulting knowledge, which can be a risk of working in isolation.

“The result is a policy that will hopefully lead to consistency for patients across the county, and clarity for professionals, along with the assurance it was developed by a large team bringing an array of professional and personal experiences to the table.

For more information see a copy of the new policy.