Lay partners ensure patients, and the community are being listened to: Meet Phayza Fudlalla

We work hard to understand and respond to what patients and the community want and need. Lay partners are crucial to this; they work collaboratively with staff to co-produce strategies, programmes and plans to ensure our care is patient-centred, inclusive and supports patients and communities. 

Phayza Fudlalla has been a lay partner at Imperial College Healthcare for just over a year and has recently taken on the role of deputy co-chair for the strategic lay forum which brings together patients, the public and staff. Here, Phayza shines a spotlight on the lay partner programme and the fundamental role it plays in shaping our care and ways of working.

What made you become a lay partner?

I have a wealth of work experience in community development and health promotion having worked with several voluntary sector organisations in London. I have also been working with communities from all backgrounds to promote their health and wellbeing. I thought these experiences, insights and intelligences would add great value to the Trust which is why I became a lay partner. I see myself as a voice representing the grassroots’ communities’ issues and concerns and it is a privilege to work with staff at Imperial College Healthcare to co-produce strategies and programmes, particularly those aimed at communities experiencing health inequalities, e.g. minority ethnic communities as well as disadvantaged, underserved and underrepresented communities. 

What projects are you currently involved in and how have you found the experience of being a lay partner?

Lay partners join specific projects and offer feedback and ask questions to help ensure the care provided by the Trust is inclusive, kind and supports our patients and communities as much as possible.

As a lay partner, I have been involved in different projects including Imperial College London’s Public Steering and Community Partners Groups which involved co-producing research projects such as did not attend (DNA). For this project, I was recruited as a Public Steering Group member. I gave my insights and views about why people from BAME, particularly the vulnerable don't attend their hospital appointments due to language barriers, transport issues, digital poverty or literacy etc. I have also worked with colleagues at the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre’s Patient Experience Research Centre to ensure that their research projects are as patient centred as possible and that they offer truly holistic care for patients and communities. I used our BME Health Forum weekly newsletter to promote their research opportunities more widely to patients and communities. The BME Health Forum newsletter is produced from information we receive from service providers including Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea local authorities, NHS, voluntary sector organisations and funding opportunities which is then sent out to nearly 500 subscribers.  People can sign up to receive the newsletter via the BME Health Forum website

I’m also involved in the development of the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion group, Waiting Well Steering Group, Big Room for Improvement and Improvement for All Implementation. These initiatives are developed by the Imperial College Healthcare Trust, and I was invited to provide my insights and perspectives to develop and shape the programmes. 

The Equality, Diversity and Inclusion programme was aimed at staff, patients and the public in order to create a shared understanding of what it means for Imperial College Healthcare to be genuinely anti-discriminatory and anti-racist. The waiting well project was initiated to look at patients waiting for orthopaedic treatment. It involved carrying out a survey with patients to understand the issues they have been experiencing while waiting for treatment and how we can better support them. Big Room for Improvement and Improvement for All focuses on continually developing outstanding care and making Imperial College Healthcare a great place to work.

My experience working closely with communities from diverse backgrounds to promote health and wellbeing has enabled and empowered me to actively involve myself and provide feedback and insights to co-produce and improve these projects.

How much time a week do you dedicate to your lay partner role?

For the lay partner role, on average I dedicate three hours per week which involves attending meetings both online and in-person.

Why is lay partner involvement so important within healthcare?

Lay partners are so important because they bring outsider knowledge and perspectives such as the lived experience of patients and local communities and directly use these insights to help influence strategies, programmes and plans alongside Trust colleagues. This in turn means that our hospitals and services are patient-centred and reflect the people and communities who come to the Trust to receive care. This also helps relieve some of the anxiety and fear around coming into hospital and removes some of the barriers of people embracing the care they need. Lay partners hold the Trust accountable and make sure that the Trust has listened to, understood and responded to what patients and the community want, need and prefer.

What do you love most about being a lay partner? Why is it rewarding?

As a resident with lived experiences, I love advocating for health inequalities. Being a lay partner provides me with the opportunity to participate in formulating strategies and programmes to make the healthcare services accessible and fair to all communities, in particular underserved communities. The role is rewarding because it has a positive impact on people’s health and improves their quality of life. 

For anyone interested in becoming a lay partner, what are the main skills that are needed?

  • Communication skills
  • Listening skills
  • Confidence to constructively challenge ideas and ways of working
  • The ability to respect confidentiality
  • Willingness to work collaboratively
  • Community development – (a bottom up approach)
  • Community engagement
  • Leadership skills 

Find out more about the lay partner role and how you can get involved.