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Reflections and Insights from a Heart Warming Care Opinion Response

Update from Care Opinion

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About: Western Health & Social Care Trust

picture of Cally Bowman

Back in June, we read a really heartwarming response to a story someone had shared on Care Opinion about their experience accessing support from the Ahsa Centre, an inpatient regional detoxification unit in Western Health and Social Care Trust. The response was so lovely that we reached out to the responder, Tanya Swanepoel, a Nursing Assistant within the Asha Centre, to highlight what a great example it was, and invite her to share her experience and advice for both writing responses and encouraging service users to share their stories on Care Opinion.

The Response

Firstly, here’s the link to the story and responses that inspired us: Drinking far to much | Care Opinion 

We thought Tanya’s response was superb. We loved how genuine, supportive and enthusiastic Tanya was about the service user’s achievements and the warm, encouraging and enthusiastic tone throughout made the response continuously engaging.

The response is really empathetic and written with a sincere compassion, as well as being informative, explaining clearly why meetings aren’t currently accessible and sign posting/encouraging the author to continue accessing support from an alternate root (“Until then, please do continue linking into the WhatsApp group which offers excellent support and encouragement for our ex-service users.”)

It’s also great that Tanya uses her profile photo in her response, to make the response as personal and friendly as possible, this is something really important highlighted in research based on best practice for responding on Care Opinion; “Introduction through the provision of a responder's picture, name and role was considered essential.” This approach to responding is great (and something we at Care Opinion encourage) because it helps those who take the time to share their story to feel confident that their feedback is welcome, valid and that they are being listened to. You can read more about this research here: What do people want in a response to their feedback? | Care Opinion

Tanya’s Reflections

We asked Tanya some questions and she very kindly has shared her personal reflections and thoughts with us, here are her wonderfully insightful and inspiring responses:

What is your role within The Trust?

I’m a Nursing Assistant at the ASHA Centre for Addictions in Omagh.

How do you ask for your service users to share their stories on Care Opinion/ How do you promote Care Opinion within your service?

We have Care Opinion posters dotted around the ASHA Centre on the ward and in all communal areas for both patients and staff to see. More importantly - when a patient is discharged, we give them the Care Opinion leaflet to take home and encourage them to go online to write a story about their experience using our service. We explain that their addiction story is really important… primarily for themselves but also for others who are looking to get help. Often we find our patients are eager and willing to put their stories out there for the benefit of others who are just starting out on their own journey to recovery.

How does it feel for you and other colleagues when you receive feedback on Care Opinion?

When we receive feedback on Care Opinion, especially if it’s a positive one, the staff do get very excited and feel proud of the tireless work we do to help those recovering from the clutches of addiction. Some days can be very challenging working on the ward, so to have a service user express their gratitude, appreciation and acknowledgement of the amazing work the team here do, is really heart warming to us.

How did you feel at first when responding to stories on Care Opinion?

At first I was a nervous and apprehensive as I didn’t want to make any mistakes or word things in the wrong way that could be misconstrued by a reader.

How do you feel about it now?

I now feel confident in responding to stories and enjoy having the opportunity to thank service users for taking the time to write to us. The part I find the most enjoyable is connecting with them to make them feel valued and validated! I always try to ensure that my replies let them know that their voice is important and that we appreciate getting the feedback…whether it’s good or bad feedback. All feedback helps us improve our service. I like to make each response personal and unique to that specific individual. I never use generic responses, as I feel it’s important to respond to whatever that individual has put in their story at that time. I always thank them for taking the time to give feedback as everyone leads busy lives so we are grateful they’ve set time aside to provide some feedback.

I also try to pick out the positive points they may have touched on and validate any feelings / emotions they talk about within their story. Validation is a huge part of making people feel valued and appreciated, so I aim to ensure each response includes some validation no matter what the situation might be. If negative aspects are talked about, I can’t always address it directly but will inform the author that the issue will be taken up with my line manager and we endeavour to get back to them directly on the matter in due course. All feedback is always appreciated as we want to provide the best possible care for all those using our service, including their families/carers.

What advice would you give to other services that are nervous about getting feedback on Care Opinion?

I would say just go for it!! In order to improve any service, you need to listen to those who are using it - above all else and take on board comments and suggestions they make. This is the primary reason our service chose to use Care Opinion. We review all feedback we receive and make necessary changes where appropriate which has been positive for us.

Anything else you’d really like to share?

The best thing about Care Opinion (In my opinion) is that it provides our patients with a platform where they feel safe to share their addiction story for the greater good of others. We hope that these stories will be used to inspire people who are struggling with their own addiction and gives them a taste of what coming to Asha would be like. The more addiction is openly spoken about, this will help reduce the stigma surrounding it.

If you'd like to learn more about the ASHA Centre and how they use Care Opinion within their service, you can read their article and watch their video on page 4 within the Western Health and Social Care Trust's quarterly newsletter from June 2023.Here's the link: Care Opinion Newsletter - June 2023 06 (

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