Yesterday, I gave a speech to GP practice manager members of CHEC – the leading provider of education, training, referrals management and project leadership for GP Practices and Primary Care.  The audience were engaged and keen to hear what my ‘mind-blowing ways were to improve patient services in GP surgeries.’

But why should they listen to little old me?

Well, back in 2010, at the of 39 years, I became a very heavy user of the NHS, after my right vertebral artery dissection, occlusion and infarction of my Pons.  For non-medical people like me, this was a brainstem stroke with a locked in syndrome (LIS) diagnosis.

So imagine being able to think, feel, see and hear yet be completely unable to voluntarily move a single muscle or communicate?  The stuff of nightmares I’m sure you will agree?

My recovery has been spectacular – I even made it Wikipedia – but by no means am I the only one, after all my global and voluntary LIS advocacy over the last 6 years.

But my own experience, and that of countless others, has taught much.

Firstly, self-belief, combined with patient motivation and grit, really does improve health outcomes and help people achieve anything in life.  Take Klaudia (24) from Poland who could only turn her wrist slightly, who within ten hours of being inspired to try at her bedside, was able to turn her wrist fully over!  Or what about Christine Waddell – a long term fully LIS survivor- who made phenomenal and unexpected physical gains after years of nothing. With just a sprinkling of inspiration, belief and her enormous effort she blew everyone’s mind.

She lost her headrest after seventeen years because she fired up her previously dormant nerves and proved that the ‘use it or lose it’ statement to be a lie.  She was able to support herself on a plinth and two years following that, she incredibly ate and drank again after nineteen years of being nil-by-mouth.

Secondly, Primary or Secondary Care should integrate to start thinking in terms of ‘Marginal Gains’. You know, Sir Dave Brailsford’s OBE (and GB Cycling visionary) had this performance philosophy which was small incremental improvements in any process adding up to a significant improvement when they are all added together.’ (BBC News)

So this makes me think, what small changes could GP surgeries make to improve their efficiency and effectiveness? Should we start asking patients to rate your GP services like they do at airports? Explore whether your chair heights or waiting room radios actually make it difficult for patients with physical or hearing impairments to sit or hear your GP calls?  Should you introduce GP patient role playing exercises or monthly ten minute case study to share to good practise with other GP’s in your surgery?

Thirdly, our NHS should start to embrace, not fear, the huge social media opportunity, that I think could not only reduce GP appointments, but also improve your patient outcomes?

For example, social media could support stroke improvement – physical, emotional or psychological– or help get patients to adhere to diabetic foot interventions or eat more healthily or exercise more or be less isolated in their communities etc.

Working collaboratively with all ages of your patients, how could you exploit the social media opportunity in your surgery?  For example, how could you minimise social media resourcing issues and managing potentially offensive posts with providing relevant services for your more digitally engaged patients.  I do get a sense that patient participation panels in GP surgeries do tend to be full of older and more traditionally engaged patients?

So how can you use social media to encourage patients to be connected with other patients mentors who suffer similar chronic illnesses? At the end of the day, how many of us use Facebook and then contrast that with thinking about how many of you also use Facebook effectively with patients?  So isn’t there a Facebook opportunity?

We have just had a sobering UK election, and it strikes me that The Conservatives also severely underestimated the power of social media to engage and mobilise our digitally engaged electorate.

(Kate Allatt stroke survivor, blogger, activist, speaker & internationally published author of ‘Running Free – Breaking out of Locked in Syndrome.’) @KateAllatt