Why engage people in health and care?
We believe that engaging people and communities in decisions about health and care services improves things for everyone.
It’s the right thing to do
The Charter of Patient Rights and Responsibilities gives people the right to be involved in decisions about their own care and treatment, and to be meaningfully involved in designing and developing local health and care services.
Additional legislation and policies place a legal duty on health and care services to involve people and communities.
There is a danger that only the most motivated groups, strongest opinions or loudest voices are heard or considered. Decision makers should involve everyone with an interest, especially those individuals and communities whose voices are more seldom included. Without a full range of perspectives, decisions may be unfairly balanced in favour of certain groups – or may unwittingly create barriers for others.
Health and care services should be sensitive to the needs and preferences of people who use them. Engagement brings more information to the decision, including clinical or technical expertise, personal experiences from patients, service users, carers and the general public, and knowledge about the wider context and history. More information can make the difference between a good and poor decision.
Our own research suggests that engagement makes services safer and more efficient, and improves person-centredness and effectiveness – especially when users of service are involved in meaningful and well-planned ways.
Increased understanding and buy-in
Involving communities from the start of a project – and maintaining clear and regular communication throughout – improves people’s understanding of the issues and builds support for the decision-making process, even if not everyone necessarily agrees with the final decision.
Having a good range of people around the table helps to build relationships across and within communities. There is increased trust between the providers of services and those who use them, and people build personal and professional networks which can open up new opportunities.
Engaging communities meaningfully increases the legitimacy of decision-making, builds the reputations of public bodies and makes them more accountable and transparent.
Involving people results in positive change. Our case studies describe the impact of community engagement.