All consultations and engagement activities need to be planned. We follow a planning cycle that starts in January when we receive the NHS England guidance for our yearly plan.
We use the period between January and March to finalise our draft plan and as part of this we review the views of patients and the public, as well as our priorities. This guides our thinking about what we need to involve patients and the public in, for example whether we need to formally consult on an anticipated or proposed service change, or whether we simply need to engage with them to help us in our thinking about services. In reality we are engaging with patients and the public on an ongoing basis, but the plan helps us focus on key priorities.
At NHS Blackburn with Darwen we plan all of our communication and engagement.
We provide staff with inhouse training and a communication engagement consultation guide. This means that when commissioners are thinking about the priorities, they are aware of the importance of involvement and engagement. The fact that it is written into our constitution and our CCG Chair is our Advisor for Patient and Public Involvement (PPI), means that from the top of the organisation down, it is seen as a priority.
We follow some clear steps to make sure that engagement is rigorous, methodical and meaningful. Here is how we plan communication and engagement.
- Activity prioritised by CCG managers – this is when we know we need to engage with patients and the public.
- Communication and Engagement scoping – this is when start asking what are we seeking to engage and involve patients and the public on. It starts with the “what”, and the “why” of engagement.
- Equality Impact Assessment (EIA) – this is when we assess if what we are considering will have any undue impact on any particular patient or public groups. We start with an understanding of our population and we use information from the JSNA and other public health information about health inequalities as much as equalities. We use a lot of the information at this stage from our Understanding Health Needs page
- Stakeholder analysis – this is when we analyse who we wish to reach, involve and engage with.
- Desktop review of existing insight and information– there is no point in “reinventing the wheel” – if we already have patient and public feedback from previous engagement, or if we have data from connect or via other sources, we start with that first, to see what that is telling us.
- Assessment of method(s) of engagement – once we know what our proposed plans are, and not only who but how they might impact on people, we need to consider how we are going to engage with people. We have a wide range of tools and techniques to do this and you can find them here.
- Development of communication and engagement plan – once we have the who, what, why and how in place, we start planning the “when”. We produce a communication and engagement plan which sets out who is doing what, when, and how.
- Development of materials to communicate and engage – with a plan in place, we can now start developing materials for engagement. These may be marketing materials such as posters or leaflets, or online content, but it could also be organising events or arranging for focus groups.
- Engagement – this is the point when we listen to people. We will work hard to hear or view as many comments as possible and we will continually check that our plan is working – and if not we will modify it.
- Analysis of views, insights and experiences – once we have collected the views and experiences of people, we then start to analyse them. We do this in a number of ways. Most often we will look at the numbers – known as quantitative analysis. But our passion is to read and analyse the comments people make. This is known as qualitative analysis. We analyse this to establish what people are saying and how this can be used by commissioners.
- Report writing – usually we write a report, but sometimes we produce a presentation or our findings are attached in a report for a committee. The committee will consider the findings as part of the wider report and make its recommendations.
- Analysis of process (PDSA) – the communication and engagement team, the Patient Partners Board and commissioners review every engagement that we do to see if we can learn from it. We use a process called PDSA cycles – PDSA means Plan, Do, Study, Act. It’s a great way to encourage improvements.
- Feedback – we provide feedback from engagement in a range of ways. For example we might issue a press release, create a story on social media, or we might use our website to share the report and the action we have taken. We are always welcome to return to groups we have attended too, to share this.