A local doctor has praised the work of two ‘unsung hospital heroes’ for helping give HIV patients a stronger voice.

Dr Mark Pakianathan, a consultant at St George’s Hospital’s Courtyard Clinic, says the efforts of specialist nurse Helen Webb and sexual health advisor Bernard Kelly in organising and facilitating an HIV-led patient forum has led to greater understanding between patients and clinicians.

Their achievement has now been nationally recognised after being short-listed for an NHS Leadership Award.

Dr Pakianathan said: “Something we all do at one time or another is make assumptions about what we think other people know and want. The patient forum has helped us focus on what really matters to our patients and respond quickly. Patients have been surprisingly understanding about the pressures we face as a department and offered some good insights into improving our day-to-day working practices.

The forum, which meets four times a year, represents the interests of more than 1,600 patients living with HIV who receive treatment and support via St George’s Hospital.

Some of its members are also involved in regular monthly meetings with senior staff advising ensuring open two way dialogue on the service.

Wendy Majewska, Clinical Services Manager added: “Watching the patient involvement programme flourish has been a privilege and a lesson to us all on the importance of engaging the people most important to us, our service users”

Patient-led improvements improved communication on waiting times at the in-house specialist pharmacy and ensuring home delivery of HIV drugs is in plain packaging. Patients are also involved in staff education.

Patients also have their own website – Courtyard Clinic Information – which provides a relaxed but lively forum where information on forthcoming events and information on how to better manage their condition is provided.