Teacher Strives To Achieve Top Marks for NHS

by Heather Peebles

Thursday, November 21st, 2013

SIGNA retired teacher is on a mission to promote equality in healthcare across Scotland through her work with a world-renowned Scottish organisation.

Margo Biggs, inspired by both her academic interest in health and social issues and personal experience of the NHS, ensures the voice of the patient is heard in her role as a key member of the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).

And such is the importance of her position, that Margo – who used to teach at Stirling High School and now lives in Falkirk – was invited to take a leading part in the 20th anniversary celebrations of SIGN.

Margo joined Professor Andrew Morris, Chief Scientist at NHS Scotland and Sir Iain Chalmers, founder of the world-renowned Cochrane Collaboration in making keynote presentations at the ceremony in Edinburgh’s Royal College of Physicians which also included an address read out from Scotland’s Health Minister, Alex Neil.

As part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, SIGN works to provide the NHS in Scotland with evidence-based guidelines that help bring new knowledge to the forefront of clinical procedures and aim to reduce variations in practice across a wide range of clinical fields.

Promoting Change

The guidelines have played a crucial role in promoting changes and advancements in healthcare knowledge and treatment that have helped to improve patients’ lives in NHS facilities across the country.

Margo said: “In my role as a Modern Studies teacher I was exposed to the many complex issues that surround the NHS and its work as a national provider of health and care.

“This prompted me to get involved with a working group which looked at possible conflict in the recommendation of specific drugs or treatments and following this I was invited to join SIGN Council as a lay representative.

“Our work on SIGN is so important. It helps patients and carers understand what the latest evidence supports around diagnosis, treatment and self-care, empowering them to participate fully in decisions around the management of their condition in discussion with healthcare professionals.

“Having had personal experience of losing both parents to cancer, I appreciate the need for reliable, informed advice and understand the welcomed reassurance this can bring to both patients and their surrounding loved ones during the difficult time they face.

“I look forward to my continued work with SIGN and hope that it will carry on making a real difference to patients and their families throughout Scotland.”

SIGN was one of the first guideline agencies in the world to involve patients, carers and the voluntary sector in all aspects of its work. Involving patients and carers in the development of SIGN guidelines has allowed their views and experiences to complement the evidence and knowledge of healthcare professionals.

One of its key successes has been to produce patient versions of the SIGN clinical guidelines that offer jargon-free explanations of the tests and treatments they should expect to receive from the NHS.

A total of 135 guidelines relating to clinical practice and methodology have been published over the past 20 years and in 2002 the organisation also helped establish the Guidelines International Network which is now comprised of 94 groups from 43 countries.

Around 1 million SIGN guidelines are downloaded each year from its website by healthcare professionals.

As it moves on from its landmark 20th anniversary, SIGN is looking to the future with the world of social media to enhance its engagement with the general public via ever evolving platforms. For more information about SIGN visit its website http://www.sign.ac.uk

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