The Healthcare Commission has produced a report on a national study of how well healthcare organisations engage local people in planning and improving their services. Key findings are:
– Patients and service users involved in the study generally felt they did not have enough say in their health services. They wanted more information about how to give their views and what changes are made as a result of their contributions. The report recommends trusts should strengthen the culture of being open and responsive with local people and give feedback on how their contribution has improved services.
– Problems were experienced when patients and service users are trying to make their views heard. Key themes included: poor communication; lack of openness; poorly designed local surveys and questionnaires; not enough opportunities to discuss views in an environment where they felt comfortable; no sense of NHS trusts building a relationship with them over time.
– One in four comments from patient groups on NHS trusts’ performance against the relevant core standard in the annual health check were negative. Most of these (80%) were about trusts failing to seek the views of patients and the public. About 50% were about how far, if at all, their views were taken into account.
– People’s views were not used routinely in planning and improving health services. Most trusts could provide some examples of using people’s views, but few demonstrated they routinely took account of them when planning and improving services. In addition, few organisations described any evaluation of their work with patients to find out whether it made a difference to people or services. The report recommends trusts should be able to demonstrate that people are influencing their major service and commissioning decisions.
– Some communities and groups are still ‘not heard’. Most trusts recognised they did not do enough to use the views of those in the poorest health or most in need of their services, and identified specific groups. Groups least likely to be heard include: black and minority ethnic communities, older people, people with learning disabilities, disabled people, children and young people. Healthcare organisations should increase efforts to reach these groups.
– Organisations should undertake checks on whether they, and their local patient and community groups, have the staff, skills and resources in place to involve people effectively in decisions about services.
The full report Listening, Learning, Working Together can be downloaded here.