The origins of Worthwhile Waiting

I thought it might be useful to write here about how this programme came to fruition; to give readers an understanding of the motivation behind the project, and the theories and concepts which were incorporated.

It all started when my sister Ellen, who works in Arts and Culture, came back from a conference on Social Prescribing. She was bubbling with enthusiasm for the ideas she had heard discussed there. It just so happened that we had recently employed some social prescribers and health coaches in Meridian Primary Care Network. The two of us began thinking about how to make the best use of these new resources.

The papers at that time (as they are now) were full of stories of the increases in waiting times caused by changes to the ways hospitals were working due to the pandemic.  We were talking about how it feels to be a patient waiting for treatment, and what we might do to improve things.

I remembered reading an article about how Disney has spent millions employing “Imagineers” to figure out how to turn a day on which you spend 8 hours out of 9 queuing into an experience you love. Ellen and I agreed – we needed Imagineers for the NHS! We discovered there was a whole literature available on the Psychology of Waiting and did a quick review of the work in the field. Here is a link for those who want to read more about this field.

Another thread which informed our thinking when creating the project was the benefits of pre-habilitation, which organisations like Macmillian were finding in their work with their patients. In the month or so prior to surgery, they were encouraging people to get into the best physical and mental health they could be in. We started thinking about how this approach would benefit other patient groups.

Finally, we discussed the idea that that one of the big problems in getting patients to engage with social prescribers and health coaches is that we were often approaching patients at the wrong time… if you’ve been living with a well-controlled long-term condition like diabetes or asthma for 30 years and out of the blue you are contacted about a new course, there isn’t a huge motivation for taking advantage of the offer. If we offered people the chance to engage at the moment of referral,  might patients will be much more likely to engage?

Combining ideas from pre-habilitation, the psychology of waiting, and this idea about the moment of the referral is a sort of “teachable moment” we came up with Worthwhile Waiting.

Traditionally, the NHS give patients very little information about how to best utilise the time between GP referral and treatment/specialist intervention; they are given a passive waiting role. With this programme, we want to transform the patients’ role into an active one – one in which they are taking advantage of the opportunities available to them to ensure they are in the best possible physical and mental health while they wait.

We spent the next few months building a list of partner organisations and discussing the idea with them, we found that everyone we spoke to immediately understood the potential of the project. We also teamed up with Anglia Ruskin University to ensure a robust evaluation process for the project.

We are excited to be launching the programme to our patients. We hope that it makes the time spent waiting for treatment a little easier for everyone.