ICS public engagement: placing community voices at the centre of decision-making

Back in 2021, the NHS’s ICS implementation guidance on working with people and communities placed putting the voices of people and communities at the centre of decision-making and governance as number one of ten principles.

Three years on, with the formation of the integrated care systems, we’re taking a look at how ICSs across the country are putting this into practice, and facilitating public engagement and community input to drive their decision-making on health in their region.

Community conversations in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

In Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, the Community Conversations engagement programme is focused on reaching “as many people as possible”, with a particular focus on those who may face the most health inequalities. Findings from these conversations will be “used to shape the final version” of the ICSs 10-year strategy.

Residents can get involved in a number of ways, including through specialist events to hear from people with hearing loss and lived experiences, through completing an online survey, or by talking to a team of staff and volunteers who are attending local events, community groups, visiting hospitals and local GPs.

Debbie Richards, chief executive of Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We want to use these conversations to ensure we hear from as many people as possible about what is important to them, especially from groups who often go unheard or who find our services harder to reach. We are currently transforming our community mental health services, and engaging with people who use these services is vital to ensuring they get the help they need in the way that is most supportive to them”.

Quarterly citizen health forums and drop-in sessions in Harrow

From North West London ICS, residents from Harrow are being invited to quarterly citizen health forums to “get involved in the conversation about health services in the borough”.

The meetings, chaired by NHS North London’s engagement and equalities team, are held online through Microsoft Teams, and have so far covered topics including the ICS’s involvement strategy and draft health and care strategy, along with elective, orthopaedic and mental health care.

In addition, teams from the ICS are to visit libraries across Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea over the coming months, with local residents invited to drop by, find out more about services and ask any questions they may have.

Primary care conversations in Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West

Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West (BOB) ICB is undertaking a programme of work called the Primary Care Conversation, which is focusing on collecting the local public’s view on primary care services via an online survey.

The survey is open for responses until the 31st of January 2024, and will help to improve understanding of the current state of primary and community services, as well as building a case for change and a consensus on the future vision for these services.

The feedback collected from residents will inform the region’s primary care strategy, which is set to be published in 2024.

Dr Abid Irfan, director of primary care at BOB ICB, said: “We are still developing our strategy to achieve these ambitions but there is now a great opportunity for local people to tell us about their experiences of using primary care which will feed into our plans for the future of these services – so I urge the public to take the time to respond and share their views with us.”

Citizens focus panels in Cheshire West

In Cheshire, a citizens focus panel is being held to invite citizens to share their views and experiences on a regular basis. Those looking to get involved will be sent a range of online surveys to complete throughout the year, as well as being invited to online events and consultations on a number of different topics.

To ensure that participants remain informed on how their input will be used, each time a survey is carried out, summary results will be published on the Healthwatch Cheshire West website.

Sharing experiences with West Yorkshire Voice

In West Yorkshire, local residents are being invited to get involved in a network that aims to ensure “the voice of the people is at the heart of health and care decision-making” in the region.

Looking especially to attract participants who have experience of health and care services, unpaid carers, “people from diverse communities and those who might not normally get involved in formal groups”; the network offers a range of opportunities for people to get involved and share their experiences.

Residents can take part in discussion groups, attend community events, or complete surveys, with the results of their involvement being displayed in the West Yorkshire HCP’s newsletter and website.

Jude Woods, West Yorkshire Healthwatch, said: “Ensuring we hear from a wide variety of people is essential to help health and care services meet the needs of all our communities. We especially want to hear the voices of those who experience the greatest health inequalities and who we might not usually hear from. Please come forward and get involved.”

Public consultation on changes to hospital services in Northern Lincolnshire

Humber and North Yorkshire HCP has released an update on public consultations regarding changes to hospital services in the North Lincolnshire region.

A series of events have taken place since September aimed at seeking people’s views on proposed changes, which would see the consolidation of “a small number of more complex medical, urgent and emergency care and paediatric (children’s) services at Diana Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby, rather than across the two hospital sites in Grimsby and Scunthorpe General Hospital”.

Focus groups with community groups such as forces communities and disabled people and carers, took place throughout October, and three further events were held in December. People are also invited to share their input online.

NHS Humber and Yorkshire ICB states that “consultation responses will be considered carefully before any decision is taken”.