Engaging and involving local people
Drawing on long traditions of community involvement, a strong and vibrant third sector, a history of political activism and partnership across sectors, getting the relationship right between services and local people is at the heart of how Tower Hamlets Together (THT) operates.
This drives our person-centred approach, is embedded in our design principles, underpins the ‘Communities Driving Change’ priority of Tower Hamlets Health and Wellbeing Strategy and defines frontline practice in our People Charter.
A snapshot how we coordinate engagement and involvement with residents
In December 2017, using the Ladder of Participation and Engagement we identified more than 100 different kinds of activity underway with residents, including:
- Working with a range of service user and carer groups to listen to what people think, including the Older People’s Reference Group and one for housebound older people, the Carer Forum at the Carers’ Centre, ‘Local Voices’ for residents with a disability and ‘Have Your Say’ for those with a learning disability, the Bangladeshi dementia café sessions, the Mayfield House Centre for Somali elders and others, anchored in an understanding of community need.
- THT Executive Board meetings begin with patient stories from the evaluation currently being undertaken by University College London.
- Service user-led training on the needs of people with mental health problems for organisations, such as Docklands Light Railway and JobCentrePlus.
- Discovery interviews about patient experience undertaken by service users and carers, non-medical staff and voluntary and community sector. representatives used to drive service improvement and staff development
- Pulling together the views of local people, including those less often heard, in the Community Insights Network and the Healthwatch online repository to review and develop existing and new ways of working.
Even considering this small sample, let alone the full breadth of activity, our ongoing challenge is how to ensure it makes a positive difference for local people.
Helping us achieve this, since 2014 engagement and involvement leads from each of the THT partners have worked together with Healthwatch, individual voluntary and community groups, patients and carers at the User and Stakeholder Focus workstream. Meeting monthly, the workstream brought a stronger service user and carer voice into the development of the new model for community health services, undertaken spotlights to improve partner performance, worked with Healthwatch on a series of ‘Your Voice Counts’ community events and participated in the Barts Health Patient Experience Conference.
In more recent months, the workstream has input into the development of the new frailty service, the Royal London Patient Panel, the Whole Systems Data Set Project, Integrated Personalized Commissioning, discharge to assess, admission avoidance, reablement and rapid response, the Community Insights Network, the Carers’ Dignity Charter and waiting times at Barts as well as debates about the meaning of co-production.
Our future success depends on building on what has been done well and being even more ambitious in how we engage the public as partners to deliver transformation in the future. The THT Executive Board has therefore agreed to establish a Centre of Excellence to co-ordinate engagement and pro-actively support local people to be involved in the life course workstreams, thereby embedding public engagement in decision making. This group will provide leadership support, training and advice on good practice, evaluate effectiveness and capture learning. The chair will have a seat on the THT Executive Board and, from 2018/19 the CCG will support the administration of the group.
On 18 April 2018, at the Ecology Centre in Mile End Park, the work of all THT partners celebrated the scope of local work to launch these next steps. In the coming months the true meaning of a ‘Centre of Excellence will be explored including an organisation development plan to improve the skills, confidence and expertise on public involvement and a co-production charter to set out the THT approach to meaningful involvement.