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Blog: The Role of the Women's Network and Patient and Public Involvement in Obstetric and Gynaecology Services

24 Jul 2023

Jane Plumb, Women’s Voices Lead for the RCOG and chair of their Women’s Network explains the role women and patients have in improving Obstetric and Gynaecology services.

I’m the recently appointed Women’s Voices Lead for the RCOG and chair their Women’s Network. My role as Chief Executive of Group B Strep Support drove my involvement with the Women’s Network. Countless families shared heart-breaking stories of being uninformed about group B Strep during pregnancy or of not being listened to during or after childbirth, leading to potentially preventable GBS infections in their babies. This made me want to work with the College to ensure that the service users’ voices are at the core of its mission. Listening to those who are using obstetrics and gynaecology services and empowering them to make informed choices is vital.

The RCOG Women’s Network

The RCOG Women's Network is a strategic committee that represents the views of users of obstetrics & gynaecology services to the College. The Network comprises 14 lay members and four clinicians from across the UK. All lay members have personal experience with either obstetrics or gynaecology services.

The Women's Network meets four times a year to discuss issues affecting women's health. The Network also has a broader involvement panel, the Women's Voices Involvement Panel, which is an online group of over 700 O&G service users. The Panel brings a breadth of health experiences and outcomes from the wider women's health community to inform the Network's involvement in RCOG activities.

The Women's Network plays a vital role in ensuring that the views of patients and the public are heard at the heart of the RCOG's work. The Network's members represent the Network across a wide range of RCOG activities, including:

  • Education and training: The Network provides input into the development of RCOG's education and training programmes, ensuring that they meet the needs of patients and the public.
  • Clinical standards: The Network works with the College to develop clinical standards for the care of women and girls.
  • Audit and review: The Network helps the College to identify and address issues in women's health.
  • Policy and public affairs: The Network represents the views of patients and the public to policymakers and other stakeholders.

The Women's Network has significantly contributed to improving the quality of care for O&G service users, helping to ensure their voices are heard and their needs are met.

Patient and Public Involvement

There are many benefits to involving patients and the public in planning and delivering healthcare services. PPI can help to:

  • Improve the quality of care: PPI can help to identify and address issues in healthcare services and to ensure that services meet the needs of patients and the public.
  • Increase patient satisfaction: PPI can help to improve patient satisfaction with healthcare services by giving patients a greater sense of control over their care.
  • Reduce costs: PPI can help to reduce the costs of healthcare services by identifying and eliminating unnecessary treatments and procedures.
  • Enhance the reputation of healthcare providers: PPI can help to enhance the reputation of healthcare providers by demonstrating that they are committed to providing high-quality care that meets the needs of patients and the public.

Here are some examples of how patient and public involvement has made a difference:

  • A Maternity Voices Partnership at a local hospital helped to improve the way that patients were informed about their care.
  • PPI involvement in developing national guidelines helped to ensure they were patient-centred, better reflecting the patient’s perspective and needs.
  • Surveys have helped to identify areas where services can be improved.
  • Emails and messages from patients and members of the public have helped to raise awareness of important issues.
The Future of PPI

PPI is essential to ensuring that women's voices are heard, and their needs met in obstetrics and gynaecology. It has the potential to transform the way that O&G care is delivered. By working together, we can ensure that women receive the best possible care.

PPI is a key part of the future of healthcare.

The RCOG strongly values the role of patient and public involvement in its decision-making and activity. Motivated by the experiences of the College’s Women’s Network, the recent pelvic floor health campaign involved surveying over 2,000 people to gain insight into public awareness and understanding of pelvic floor health. As part of this campaign, the College worked closely with Women’s Network members to design the survey questions, ensuring that the feedback gathered was driven by those with lived experience of pelvic floor dysfunction. Based on insight from the public and PPI activity, the campaign identified key opportunities to tackle pelvic floor dysfunction through improved education and access to information.

As well as ensuring O&G service users are central to our campaigning and policy activity, the College also supports patient and public involvement in its quality improvement activity. As part of the OASI2 study, women with lived experience of severe tears were members of the Independent Advisory Group, playing a strong role in steering the project and also ensuring the focus remained on what women and birthing people need. Those with lived experience supported the development of evidence-based information and digital resources for the public.

If you are a RCOG member you would like some support from the RCOG’s Patient and Public Involvement team or you have case studies to share, please get in touch. If you are a member of the public, who would like to be involved in our work, please sign up to our Women’s Voices Involvement Panel.

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  • Pregnancy and birth
  • Fertility
  • Abortion
  • Menopause
  • Gynaecology