Healthwatch Devon and Petroc College, Barnstaple host Women in Theatre production of Phyllis – audience are inspired by the true-life portrayal of a women and her family’s experience of dementia care.

Over 100 people in Devon, including representatives from NHS/Social Care services and Petroc college health and social care students joined Healthwatch Devon on 29 November to watch Women and Theatre’s production: Phyllis

Developed from research with patients, family members and health and social care professionals, Women & Theatre’s production, Phyllis, presents the story of one family navigating the complex system of older people’s care as they try to work out the best way to look after their ageing mother.

As the population lives longer the care of our older adults becomes a pressing issue for us all. Health, social services and the wider community all share responsibility for stepping up to the challenge of providing sustainable, dignified care in the last part of our citizens’ lives. Phyllis explores these issues and asks the vital question “How can we make the system work better for everyone?”

Chief Executive of Healthwatch Devon, Elaine Cook welcomed everybody and thanked Petroc College for hosting the play and students for attending.

Darryn Allcorn, is Chief Nurse North Devon District Hospital, the most remote hospital in mainland England. He spoke about how the North Devon NHS Trust has adapted to these challenges, focusing on high quality care and the future by investing in education and training. Darryn was pleased to announce the launch of their nursing course starting in April 2020, made possible by the Tri Partnership between North Devon NHS Trust, Petroc Care Academy and Bolton University.

Artistic Director Janice Connolly, who plays the lead part of Phyllis, expressed excitement in her address to see so many young people. Janice encouraged these health and care service providers of our future to think creatively so they may uncover innovative solutions to current issues.

Women and Theatre is an award-winning theatre company which makes deep work about things that matter. They create vibrant theatre that explores the human condition and issues affecting people’s wellbeing in contemporary society.

The play was a great success. It highlighted so poignantly, the significant struggles of people and their families to navigate complex health systems, know who to talk to and how to get the help they need. The characters were expertly brought to life by the fantastic actors.

Following the play, the audience had the opportunity to share their thoughts and views about what could help make the system work better for everyone in Devon.

Here is a round-up of what was shared with us:

  • Communication is a key issue, as audience members acknowledged their own experience of not knowing what is happening with their loved one while in hospital
  • Family structures were a topic as people acknowledge that could be more support from family members, but they too have their own commitments. Employers could support their employees by being more flexible during difficult times so there is less pressure on the care giver and the employer would not completely lose a valuable member of staff
  • A student made a good suggest around the mindset of care homes, making them an attractive, desirable place to be where there is more of a community feel and camaraderie, with social events and friendships.
  • Professionals were grateful for the insight into seeing all perspectives during the production that they may sometimes lose sight of in their everyday
  • We must do more to integrate commissioning and reduce complex health and care journeys for our citizens, and their families

We would like to thank Women and Theatre for a thought-provoking production, and to the staff and students at Petroc College, Barnstaple for their support and use of their theatre. We would like to thank those who joined us on the day. Special thanks to Paul Giblin, our Commissioner, our Chair and trustees and everybody who came and supported this event.

More photos from the event can be viewed here

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