Following a similar event in 2014, Simon spent an hour with members discussing co-production of new models of care, patient and public involvement with NHS England and supported self-management.
Struggle to engage
A strong theme of the questions posed by National Voices members was the struggle to engage in the work of NHS England, or the development of new models of care and future NHS plans. There is a multitude of system transformation programmes that can seem opaque and unconnected, making it impossible for smaller groups to keep abreast of and engage with.
Members cited the recent changes to National Clinical Director posts and planned changes to Clinical Reference Groups as examples of decisions made with seemingly no patient or public involvement. Concern was also raised about the complexity and bureaucracy of engaging with the NHS, with members highlighting difficulties in identifying who they should engage with at both local and national level.
In response, Simon admitted that NHS England is not good enough across the piece and is not listening well to all the voices. He did, however, highlight the recent reviews and taskforces independently led by voluntary sector organisations, such as the Mental Health Taskforce, chaired by Mind chief executive Paul Farmer.
Pace is the enemy of good engagement
A number of members raised the chaotic pace of planning as a real barrier to patient involvement: ‘pace is often the enemy of good engagement’. NHS England is constantly in a disordered hurry. A four week consultation is not the same as co-production.
Yes, said Simon, though his frustration is that things are changing too slowly. In his disarmingly relaxed style he commented that never before has the NHS been accused of doing things too quickly.
‘Banging on the doors’
Speaking candidly on the issue of social care funding, Simon said that so far there had been ‘no satisfactory answer’, describing it as ‘unfinished business.’
He finished the session by calling on voluntary sector organisations to be ‘banging on the door of local commissioners telling them how to raise their game.’
So there it is, a challenge from the top.
We hear that local plans are being developed across 44 ‘transformational footprints’. That’s 44 doors to bang on. Only problem is that we currently don’t know where the doors are, or who is behind them.
The event was open to members of National Voices.