Ahead of the upcoming HETT Show, (26th-27th September, ExCeL London), we spoke to HETT speaker and Patient Representative, Diane Deane-Bowers to find out more about the role of the patient panel and how HETT conferences have assisted her in her role: 

I am not a tech or medical expert, but I am writing entirely from the perspective of the patient. 

I am truly appreciative of the opportunities I will be given by attending HETT conferences. These events are so innovative, and it is a privilege to mingle with eminent medics and tech providers. Attendance is proof that “you are never too old to learn”, and it is energising to be party to the latest gadgetry and exceptional thinking. The Patient Panel of Princess Alexandra Hospital, Harlow, is celebrating its 10th Birthday, having been instigated post the Francis report in 2013. Despite their obvious value, few of these groups exist, so it is a huge privilege to work with our own dynamic group. 

In tribute to my exceptional colleagues and the unique collaboration with the hospital, it seems to be an appropriate time to explain our role. In theory, we represent a local population of 300,000 people so we have the credentials to be the voice of the patient, which sadly is not always centric to crucial decisions regarding the patient experience. 

Following my previous speech at HETT, I have connected with various people, including senior staff from the national CQC and they are intrigued by our remit and successes (Rated “Outstanding” and the only panel to receive the late Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service). 

We are ordinary volunteers, working with a non-specialist, local hospital. However, we have dogged determination and commitment. We are relatively diverse with regards to ethnicity, gender and religious affiliations. Yet, we are age in-balanced, as most of us are retired enabling us time to give the commitment and effort required for meaningful improvement. We come from a spectrum of professions and our USP is an overwhelming store of common sense, sadly, sometimes lacking in large corporations. Dare I say we are good people, and we have limitless empathy and compassion for our fellow patients. Between us, we have insights into many conditions. We have sat in A&E for hours, had numerous appointments cancelled, procedures delayed and anxiously waited for ambulance services. Several of us are full time carers for frail partners or vulnerable children which comes with many challenges regarding care. We are all too aware of how frustrating the NHS can be despite its good intentions. 

We cannot address the significant problems of the NHS, but we do make small, incremental changes. We boost staff morale by constant thanks to individuals and delicious cake presentations to dedicated teams. We see ourselves as a direct portal to patients and we collaborate on leaflets and digital innovations with the hospital. Recently we have surveyed patients to establish the most frequent questions asked at hospital reception. This data is now being programmed into a digital hostess who will aid patients, particularly out of hours. A recent collaboration is with the Chief Pharmacist and a digital expert at the hospital. We are working on an accessible digital model to aide carers to deliver the correct medication, as prepared dosette boxes are being phased out. We also oversee the complaints procedure, assessing how the complaint was handled and how an action plan for future avoidance might be implemented. This is a measure of the hospital’s unique respect for us, as no other hospital allows patients access to such highly sensitive material. We also organise much praised conferences to raise awareness in the community of such issues as diabetes technology, nutrition, discharge problems and cancer care and support. 

As mentioned in a previous blog on a patients perspective of digital transformation in the NHS I am regarded as a digital immigrant. I have come from a culture of complete ignorance to one which embraces the exciting world of digitalisation/AI. It will be challenging to prepare all patients for this brave new world, but the Patient Panel are determined to play their part in this exciting new venture in preparation for the delivery of one of the most technical advanced new hospitals in the country (2030). 

The rapid pace of AI etc may be overwhelming to some patients and we are aware they may be hesitant to use it or see its multiple benefits. 

Currently the media is full of the woes of the NHS and sometimes our panel does question the time and energy we spend trying to resolve problems. For some the NHS is a wounded dinosaur, limping towards extinction. We cannot allow that to happen and must remember the wonderful premise of the NHS: namely to treat all patients equally and freely at the point of need and to continue to do so. It still treats millions of patients annually with on-going success and it is finally embracing the digital/AI world with gusto. Hopefully this will revitalise and transform the NHS. For the chronically sick, or those with life threatening conditions, this is an innovative and life-affirming time for diagnostics and treatments. Technological solutions are being devised that appeared to be utter fantasy until very recently. Long may it continue and let us celebrate this esteemed institution. 

I hope all attendees at HETT have a wonderful, inspirational day and I look forward to connecting face-to-face with you all. 

Very best wishes 

Diane Deane-Bowers, Vice Chair Patient Panel 

If you would like to connect with Diane, you can do via the email below: 


Register for HETT Show, 26-27th September, ExCeL London 

You can catch Diane share more of her perspective of digital transformation in the NHS at this year's HETT Show, 26th – 27th September. Diane will be joining the session ‘The Future Digital Patient: Exploring the Design, Adoption and Engagement of Apps’, where her and the panel will discuss: 

  • The importance of building trust in digital health 
  • Encouraging patients to take more responsibility in managing their own care, embedding it as the new norm for the younger generations 
  • How to utilise existing assets to support and align the digital offer 
  • Identifying and overcoming barriers ensuring apps are user friendly 

HETT Show is free to attend for the NHS and wider public sector.  

Register for HETT Show

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