From Branagh to bones: Why I joined the RCP’s Patient and Carer Network

Iona Price, chair of the RCP’s Falls and Fragility Fractures Audit Programme (FFFAP) Patient Panel, reflects on why she joined the RCP’s Patient and Carer Network. 

I have been lucky enough to work with many of our leading actors and directors across my career, including Kenneth Branagh, spanning 35 years in theatre and film production. These days, my focus is a bit different, having become a patient advocate and currently chair of the RCP’s Falls and Fragility Fractures Audit Programme (FFFAP) Patient Panel.

So, you may wonder, how did I move from working with Branagh to broken bones?

Several factors contributed to this, the major one being my mother’s hip fracture. Although my mother received prompt surgery, unfortunately post-operative delirium prevented her rehabilitation ever starting on the acute ward.

Following a prolonged stay in hospital she was eventually discharged to a nursing home. There were no beds were available on any of the local community rehabilitation units — something that I’ve found is all too common for those who suffer a hip fracture.

My mother recovered from the delirium remarkably quickly once in the quieter environment of a nursing home, and was keen to start working with a physiotherapist. Post-hip fracture, she was unable to walk or even stand unaided and was totally dependent upon others.

However, at this point I discovered my mistake in agreeing to move my mother from hospital to a nursing home. The calmer environment had been exactly what she needed for the delirium, but she had been discharged from the acute unit and, although recovering from a hip fracture, now required the GP to refer her as a ‘new patient’ to the community physiotherapy team.

Like many parts of the country, our local service is seriously under-resourced and there was a wait for the first assessment before any physiotherapy could start. 12 weeks in my mother’s case.

During the long 3 month wait, my mother became depressed and despondent. When the community physiotherapist did start working with her, my mother quickly managed to stand and take a few steps with a walking frame unaided. This was transformative for her mental state. Sadly my mother contracted a chest infection and died before she could finish her long-awaited rehabilitation programme.

I believe a lack of proper joined-up care between acute and community had created the problems my mother faced when moved to a nursing home. I wanted to do something to raise awareness and prevent other patients and their families experiencing the same distressing gap in services.

Iona Price, chair of the RCP’s Falls and Fragility Fractures Audit Programme (FFFAP) Patient Panel

This is why I joined the RCP’s Patient and Carer Network (PCN) in 2014. During my first month, I was appointed as a patient representative on both the National Hip Fracture Database and Fracture Liaison Service database advisory groups. I was delighted to find myself working with two groups of dedicated professionals. Who recognised there were problems with the care pathway for some fracture patients and were doing their best to rectify these.

Five years later I am still working with the FFFAP team. At the end of 2018 we appointed a strong, 10-membered Patient Panel which I helped set up and currently chair.

The panel members all have experience of fragility fractures either personally or through family members and are passionate about making improvements to services for other patients and their loved ones. The panel are a dynamic group, with some great ideas and they are already making a significant contribution to FFFAP’s work. 

The RCP’s Patient and Carer Network works across all their major projects. Our work has shown that meaningful patient engagement really does improve patient experience and satisfaction, and together we can help make services more effective. At the moment, we are looking for new members to join the PCN.

We’d welcome applications from all sections of society. It is only by working together that we can drive up standards of care in the NHS and ensure situations like the one my mother went through are not the norm.

Joining the RCP's Patient and Carer Network