Paving the way for citizens to have their say

NHS England’s Head of Public Voice, Olivia Butterworth, introduces the design of NHS Citizen, which you can see on a new design microsite.  

Since July 2013 we have been exploring how NHS England can and should make a step change in how citizens can be actively involved in the decision making of NHS England.

That work started initially with a concept of a ‘Civil Society Assembly’ – a way for organisations and public leaders to take part in frank and honest conversations with the Board of NHS England.

This public relationship was intended to hold people to account for their role in healthcare issues that could lead to better decision-making. You can read about this in an NHS England board report for February 2013.

The initial concept and intent to increase accountability and transparency has held true but the need to involve citizens  – patients, carers, service users, people with lived experience and those interested in health and care – was apparent.

We needed to work together to catalyse a social movement and this evolved into the NHS Citizen design project. For the last 18 months we have involved more than 1,500 people, publicly discussing, thinking and designing a new model for citizen participation in the work of NHS England.

I’m really excited that we are now at the stage where that design can be settled (for now) and the next stage of implementation – working with citizens, the NHS England Board, colleagues and partner organisations – can begin to make this a reality in our day-to-day working practice; changing the conversation.

We know that people love the NHS and want to be a part of taking care and guiding this great institution. Simon Stevens, the Chief Executive of NHS England, has talked about how the NHS needs to be more than a care and repair organisation, and how we need to all be part of this cherished social movement. NHS Citizen is about building a way for citizens to be active partners of the NHS.

As NHS Citizen is built and established as a way of working there will be more and more opportunities for this to be the case.

Just last month, we saw this in action. At the Assembly Review and Stock Take in Leeds citizens and members of the NHS England Board reviewed and considered the progress together of the five Assembly issues. These were just the kinds of conversations that were first envisaged when we talked about a Citizens’ Assembly back in 2013.

Now we have, in the shape of the NHS Citizen design, a blueprint for how these conversations can become commonplace throughout the NHS. Over the course of the next year we all need to work together to make a difference, create spaces for different conversations and use citizen participation to drive improvements in services and outcomes for people.

You can read about the NHS Citizen design and learn about the project on the NHS Citizen website.

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