Why we should be talking about patient and public engagement

Carrie-Ann Wade profile picture

20 February 2019

Carrie-Ann Wade
Director of communications, engagement and marketing at North East London NHS Foundation Trust


The focus for the February 2019 NHS Providers Communications leads network is patient and public engagement. It could not be more relevant to those of us working in the NHS. The NHS long term plan focuses on the delivery of a sustainable, cost-effective NHS for the future in a time of unprecedented demand on our services. Every element of the plan requires engagement with our patients and the wider public.

After 14 years in the NHS I feel this is an area where we are able to demonstrate pockets of good practice across providers but we have yet to embed a consistent approach across the board. We need to engage people in so many different agendas I sometimes wonder if it is possible at all.

We want people to make informed choices through consultation about how we can best spend the limited funds we have and contribute views about providing services differently into the future. We want people to actively engage in prevention and self-care to avoid the need for ongoing acute and long term care. We’d like people to use digital technology for things they’ve never needed to before. We hope to change long-standing habits people have formed over many years in accessing and using services, asking some people to change a lifetime of behaviours. We ask for endless feedback through surveys, focus groups and meetings, often doing ourselves a disservice by not feeding back the action we plan to take based on the information that has been shared. I feel overwhelmed already so I don’t know how our patients and local communities must feel.

We hope to change long-standing habits people have formed over many years in accessing and using services, asking some people to change a lifetime of behaviours.

Carrie-Ann Wade    Director of communications, engagement and marketing at North East London NHS Foundation Trust

On the flipside there are excellent examples across the country of engagement in service developments, improvements to the care we provide, the use of innovative technology to deliver services in more effective and efficient ways… I could go on. East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust and Cheshire and Wirral Partnership are exceptional examples of this. So this network meeting is an opportunity for us to hear about genuine and successful involvement, share good practice and ideas to take away and use in our own trusts.

This network meeting is an opportunity for us to hear about genuine and successful involvement, share good practice and ideas to take away and use in our own trusts.

Carrie-Ann Wade    Director of communications, engagement and marketing at North East London NHS Foundation Trust

The agenda provides a chance for us to hear from others who can highlight areas we can improve on, for example, making the case for change in a meaningful way for those who will be most impacted. BritainThinks have so much insight and intelligence on this topic I am looking forward to their session. I also truly believe we have a lot to learn from our colleagues in local authorities who are constantly engaging residents in the work they do and decisions they make. I am pleased to have the Wigan Council case study on the agenda as it demonstrates how organisations and communities can work together to reach agreements on how best to provide services within the confines of ever stretched resources.

At a time when we really need our patients and the public onside in order to deliver a sustainable NHS into the future, it feels like this Communications leads network meeting will provide a chance for us to take stock, refresh our thinking and embed good practice.

Carrie-Ann will be chairing our next Communications leads network on 28 February 2019. Book your place now.

About the author

Carrie-Ann Wade profile picture

Carrie-Ann Wade
Director of communications, engagement and marketing at North East London NHS Foundation Trust
@CrayonCW

Carrie-Ann is currently the director of communications, engagement and marketing at North East London NHS Foundation Trust and has worked in NHS communications and engagement roles, mostly within provider trusts, for the past 13 years. Carrie-Ann's previous experience is in marketing within the private sector. She also currently chairs the NHS Providers national Communications leads network and is vice-chair of The Missenden Group.

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