Olivia Butterworth reflects on how we can put young people at the heart of decision making in the NHS:
Led by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, Takeover Day gives young people the chance to work with adults for the day and be involved in experiencing and learning in ways that connect them with the world of work and raise their personal aspirations for the future. For us at NHS England it also offered us a way to explore with young people how we can really involve them in decision making and genuinely making their voices heard in the NHS.
Our aims for Takeover day were simple:
- Increase Young people’s understanding of NHS England’s role;
- Provide assurance that the opinions of young people are valued and respected;
- Increase aspirations, skills, knowledge and inspiration.
On Friday 22 November members of the Young Peoples Parliament from the Co-operative Academy of Leeds came in to Quarry House. Bill McCarthy, National Director of Policy, Liz Eccles, Director of Corporate Development, and Neil Churchill, Director for Patient Experience, joined us for an insightful discussion that explored their experiences of health services and developed some imaginative solutions to how we could improve both our services and our own health.
I was particularly struck by one young woman, Malika, who eloquently described just how important it was to her to make sure we have parity between Mental Health services and support and physical health services and support.
Her personal experience of stigma and silence in communities where it’s not OK to talk about our mental health was so powerful.
On Thursday 28 November young people really took over! Working with the Young People’s Health Partnership – one of our national voluntary sector strategic partners including Addaction, Association of Young People’s Health, Brook, CLIC Sargent, Street Games, and Youth Access – young people came from all over the country to participate in a day’s workshop to explore their views and experiences of the NHS and concluded with a powerful presentation to the Executive Team.
The Twitter story gives you a much better visual expression of the day – every young person who came was a fantastic ambassador and advocate for why we must involve young people and really create space for them to have their own voice which we hear and act on – NHS England Takeover Day 2013 on Storify.
The energy, enthusiasm and commitment of everyone was just awesome. The discussion covered almost every aspect of healthcare but the ones that really stood out for me were:
- The need for longer and more flexible appointment times when young people needed time to express themselves and support to be understood
- Being able to tell our story once and not have to keep repeating ourselves
- Not being judged because of our sexuality
- Continuity of the people we see so we are not passed around services always having to start again in building relationships we can trust
Most of all I was struck by the respect and openness everyone showed each other, making sure everyone had the time to speak and be heard.
One off events like this are fine but we need to do more to make young people a central part of the way we work.
To conclude the day the Executive Team were asked to say a word, make a pledge or commitment or simply reflect on what they had heard.
One of the suggestions from the young people was that we should establish ‘Youth Boards’. David Nicholson questioned whether they would simply get dull and boring. Alex from Changing Our Lives gave a passionate reassurance that, if young people were in control of them there was no way they would be boring!
Another proposal to have young inspectors involved in assessing whether services were really delivering high quality and appropriate support for young people was welcomed and a number of Directors committed to exploring ways to make it happen. Just a few of the pledges included:
- Jane Cummings: ‘To work with AYPH to support youth inspectors and young people’s Board’
- Ros Roughton: ‘I will work to make your GP easier to talk to, when you want to see them’
- Bruce Keogh: ‘Youth Boards…great idea!’
- David Nicholson: ‘Youth Boards and inspectors’
- Paul Bauman: ‘I would really value a youth board to help us make difficult decisions we face’
So what next?
We will be in touch with all the young people who came to make sure we are able to keep them involved in developing our work – but most importantly to hold us to account for the commitments and pledges made on the day. We will send an information pack with a short report summarising the day, all of the pledges, the presentations and Tom’s amazing photos.
The NHS England Youth Forum recruitment is well underway and we want to make sure that everyone who takes the time to apply is able to be involved in how we develop regional ‘Youth Boards’ – Giles Wilmore, Director of Patient, Public Voice and Information, has committed to leading this, working with his Regional Director Colleagues.
We’ll have to see just what’s happened and what has been achieved at Expo 2014!
Huge thanks to everyone – Young People and the team at NHS England – I think we make a difference together!