It is hard to recall a time where the NHS has undergone such significant change as it has recently. But change presents opportunity. With a relentless drive for transparency and citizen involvement, we have a real opportunity. Increasingly there is recognition that if we are to address the challenges that the NHS faces then we have to take a different approach. That approach means ensuring that patients and the public are at both the heart of decisions regarding their own care and support and are also an integral part of healthcare commissioning and service improvement.
There are no greater experts in how health and care services should be designed and commissioned than patients themselves. Healthcare commissioners and providers must be confident in harnessing this expertise and collaborating with patients to improve services. So, in the autumn of 2013, NHS England published Transforming Participation in Health and Care, a guidance tool for NHS commissioners that, for the first time, considered the full scope of people’s involvement in health covering both public and individual participation and how we can better use insight techniques to gather people’s views.
Although the publication of this guidance reinforces the changes we need to see in each of these areas, it is important that we recognise some of the great work that has already happened throughout the NHS. This is the focus of the Excellence in Participation Awards, taking place at this year’s NHS Expo in Manchester on the 3rd March.
With awards across nine categories – aimed at individual patients, volunteers and frontline health and care staff, through to organisations based in the community and those who commission and provide health and care services – they will raise the profile and recognition of excellent practice in the involvement of patients and the public in health and care.
The public participation awards celebrate the patients and members of the public who enrich healthcare by adding their voice and expertise to the commissioning process, making sure that local services work for them. Equally, these awards recognise commissioners who provide health and care services in a way that creates an environment that allows the public voice to be genuinely effective.
Meanwhile, the individual participation awards recognise staff and organisations developing, commissioning and delivering services with patients and the public at their heart. This is especially relevant for those who deliver services that decisively challenge traditional approaches to healthcare and instead work with patients as active participants, rather than passive recipients, involving them centrally in decisions regarding their care and support.
We know that for every hour a patient spends in the company of a clinician that they spend thousands alone, or with their families and communities. These awards will recognise services that build patients’ capacity to self-manage their conditions, which we know improves outcomes and maximises the impact of the small amount of time patients spend with clinicians.
The awards that focus on insight and feedback profile organisations that have developed innovative ways of finding out what that their patients, service users and local communities really think: about the quality of care they receive, their experiences and their views on how services can better meet their needs. Not only are these organisations good at finding this out, but they act on it using high quality insight and feedback effectively to improve services.
Together these awards will showcase good practice that demonstrates how the NHS can and should work with a genuine sense of partnership and collaboration, with both patients and the public. We want to acknowledge the outstanding contributions that individual patients and members of the public make to their NHS.
Awards for promoting volunteering, the contribution of children and young people and the participant of the year will tie the ceremony together, recognising and thanking patients and members of the public directly who make our job considerably easier by contributing their knowledge and expertise.
Finally, although the Excellence in Participation Awards are a celebration, they are also part of a journey for the NH; a journey towards a health service that doesn’t think about patient and public engagement as a supplementary activity, but rather assumes that it is part of any process we undertake.
Let’s take a moment to celebrate the progress so far at Expo, and then return to work with renewed vigour and determination to make further progress in this crucial area of health service activity.