(2017). Professionals learning together with patients: An exploratory study of a collaborative learning Fellowship programme for healthcare improvement. Journal of Interprofessional Care. Ahead of Print.
Improving the quality of healthcare involves collaboration between many different stakeholders. Collaborative learning theory suggests that teaching different professional groups alongside each other may enable them to develop skills in how to collaborate effectively, but there is little literature on how this works in practice. Further, though it is recognised that patients play a fundamental role in quality improvement, there are few examples of where they learn together with professionals. To contribute to addressing this gap, we review a collaborative fellowship in Northwest London, designed to build capacity to improve healthcare, which enabled patients and professionals to learn together. Using the lens of collaborative learning, we conducted an exploratory study of six cohorts of the year long programme (71 participants). Data were collected using open text responses from an online survey (n = 31) and semi-structured interviews (n = 34) and analysed using an inductive open coding approach. The collaborative design of the Fellowship, which included bringing multiple perspectives to discussions of real world problems, was valued by participants who reflected on the safe, egalitarian space created by the programme. Participants (healthcare professionals and patients) found this way of learning initially challenging yet ultimately productive. Despite the pedagogical and practical challenges of developing a collaborative programme, this study indicates that opening up previously restricted learning opportunities as widely as possible, to include patients and carers, is an effective mechanism to develop collaborative skills for quality improvement.