It’s open house for citizen participation

Olivia Butterworth, NHS England’s Head of Public Voice, throws open the doors to the Patients and Information Directorate with an open invitation.

In June we are hosting the latest in our series of Open House events for the Patients and Information Directorate and we would like YOU to join us.

We last did this in January when we invited colleagues and partners to join us in a discussion held in conjunction with the Informatics Services Commissioning Group (now known as the National Information Board).

The aim is simple, to literally open the doors of our projects and programmes and to invite citizens in to see and hear about what is being developed and to contribute their experiences, ideas and expertise.

When I say ‘citizens’, I mean patients, carers, staff, partner organisations and anyone with an interest in contributing their experiences and expertise to improve the NHS

Some people call this type of event co-production, others might call it a hack day; we’re calling it our ‘Open House’.

This time, we are trying something new and different for us, with four regionally based events that are digitally connected by webcasts and social media, driving a national conversation based on local experiences and issues.

I think it’s important to explain why we are adopting this approach and to outline the principles that underpin how we are working to connect citizens directly to our work:

Regional variation: we know there is variation in health outcomes, health inequalities, access and experience depending on where you live in the country. Sharing our experience regionally in a way that can be heard, shared and compared nationally will highlight areas of excellent practice, help us to understand what this means and what may need to change.

Transparency and openness: we have a loud rhetoric of transparency and openness which we need to live in our behaviours and actions. Opening our doors to citizen engagement in emergent policy development, difficult issues that affect us all and sharing plans for implementation will help us to engage earlier and share the information that people need to be able to participate and contribute their expertise to improve our NHS.

Accessibility and diversifying voice: reaching out beyond London and Leeds to hear the voices of those who wouldn’t usually be able to contribute like this, alongside using digital technology for those who can’t travel or commit a whole day, should help us to connect with a whole load of people who want to participate, contribute and influence NHS England’s work. We are trying to overcome the typical barriers often created by our traditional approaches to engagement.

People are the most valuable asset we have: our skills and expertise in our own lives, health, families, communities and experiences are priceless. We need to make sure those that want to contribute are able to in accessible and convenient ways, where their voices are heard by those who are developing programmes intended to support them.

Co-production: If we are to move to a world where we engage in genuine partnerships, share power and draw on the skills and expertise people bring, then we need to think differently about how we engage. Commissioners and policy makers need to connect with the people who are impacted by their decisions so that they can learn about what matters to people and use the creative ideas and solutions that people often already have in their lives.

So our ambition in opening the doors to Patients and Information Directorate’s work is to draw in a wide range of expertise, experience, ideas and suggestions from people who will be directly affected by the programmes for which we are responsible.

We can only make real our rhetoric of ‘putting people at the heart of everything we do’ if we involve people, before our programmes are conceived and designed.

Please join us 17 June 2014, 10:00 to 15:30 in York, Leicester, Basingstoke, London, and on twitter through the following:

Open House booking form links:

 Further information

Olivia Butterworth

Olivia Butterworth is Head of Public Participation for NHS England and NHS Improvement.

She ensures the NHS works with citizens and communities to have a voice that influences the development, design and delivery of our health and care services.
Olivia is the national lead for the People and Communities workstream of the Primary Care Networks programme and was named in the HSJs Top 50 Innovators and the Top 50 Integrators in 2014. In 2018 she was named as one of the Top 70 NHS Stars.

She has a background in Community Development and education with a passion for empowering people to be their own change.

Olivia has worked with a wide and diverse range of voluntary sector organisations, both in paid and voluntary roles, providing support with organisational development, developing services, engagement, involvement and fundraising. Olivia is very proud to be a Trustee of Manchester based LGBT Foundation and a Non-Executive Director of Local Care Direct.

You can follow her on Twitter @LiviBF

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  1. Katherine Barclay says:

    I’ve only now heard bout this – how might I get timely notice of future meetings please, that is in time to attempt to register to attend?

    • Olivia says:

      Hi Katherine
      I’m sorry you have only just found out about this. You can register your details with us here – – and you’ll get updates and notifications. I think there may be some places left in Basingstoke and Leicester if you were able to make either of those. If you have access you can watch on the web and join in using twitter on #NHSOpenHouse
      Thanks so much for being interested – hope we meet somewhere soon.
      Best wishes

  2. Paul Munim says:

    This is an interesting initiative to be more open and create a better understanding of the NHS. Our website [link removed] is about enabling people to access their local community organisations for support. Equally with NHS structures and systems we have found that local community organisations are well placed to explain to local people the value of engaging with NHS services. We feel more awareness needs to be raised of the value that local organisations can bring for patients.

    • Olivia Butterworth says:

      Hi Paul – good to hear from you and thanks for your comments. I agree that local voluntary and community groups are often brilliant at being able to communicate and explain to people as well as bringing their issues to NHS and other partners. Would be great to talk more to you about this – drop me an email –
      Very best wishes

    • Anonymous says:

      Olivia Butterworth has a very good idea BUT does she not know there are many, many patients and carers in the south west, some of whom would like to participate??

      Gillian Seward
      Bristol Older People’s Forum

      • Anonymous says:

        Hi Gillian
        Thanks for your comment and I’m glad you like the idea. I am sorry, we simply couldn’t be everywhere!
        However, we are in Bristol in July for a two day NHSCitizen development session. If you fancy joining in have a look at and book yourself a place.
        Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.
        Very best wishes

  3. Dave Fox says:

    Very good idea, and I know you are sincere about this by everything else I read from you on Twitter etc. But you need to watch the jargon, I’m afraid. The paragraph on ‘Transparency and openness’ in particular is written from an insider’s perspective. The problem with this is that you’re likely to alienate the very people you have to try hardest to reach with something like this — patients, carers and the interested member of the public.

    There’s a real danger they’ll read this and think that they will be out of their depth during the whole day, because the discussion will be equally difficult to understand.

    The following paragraphs aren’t much easier for the lay reader, I’m afraid.

    Sorry to be negative. I know you are genuinely trying to reach out to people and are eager to learn — otherwise I wouldn’t leave the feedback.

    Please contact me if you’d like a more detailed explanation of the problems I’m pointing out.

    Good luck with the day!

    best wishes


    • Olivia Butterworth says:

      Thanks for the comment Dave – very fair points and well made. I will try my hardest to use more straightforward and jargon free English.
      Please keep picking me up on it though! I appreciate your honesty and frankness – we can only improve what we do and how we do it if we get constructive feedback like yours!
      Very best wishes