Developing leaders in healthcare is integral to improving the quality of care for patients with conditions such as diabetes. However, it is increasingly accepted that all team members need to be involved if lasting improvements are to be made.

The Health Foundation's shared leadership for change scheme is based on the principle that teams work together more effectively if all team members assert their individual leadership qualities.

Recognising that patient engagement is essential fro real service transformation, each team also includes a patient. Gerry Shapiro's role as patient representative was particularly important in keeping the Lothian team focused on improving services.

Patient leaders

'My role as a patient was to help the professionals appreciate the extent to which we were responding culturally to the goal of providing a patient-centred, patient-responsible service,' he says. 'We needed to move away from the more consultant-centred attitude that traditionally exists in the UK.'

One of the key areas that Gerry's team worked on was the redesign of eye care services for diabetes patients. When Gerry joined the team, services were delivered locally, leading to a disparity in quality of care and quality assurance.

To address this problem, the team managed the move to a more centralised system. This proved challenging, with issues around computer software and communications, but the quality of information provided to patients has now improved substantially.