NHS Lothian Youth Panel

NHS Lothian Youth Panel

The NHS Lothian Youth Panel meets quarterly on Zoom so that the views and experiences of young people aged 11 to 26 can influence the design of new services.

Young Scot is the national youth information and citizenship charity for 11 to 26-year-olds in Scotland. In January 2020, we recruited a group of young people to form the NHS Lothian Youth Panel.

The Panel was originally set up in partnership with NHS Lothian's public engagement team and is funded via the Edinburgh and Lothian Health Foundation.

What we did

Young people living in the West Lothian, Midlothian, East Midlothian, or Edinburgh were eligible to take part. To reach potential volunteers, and to ensure we had representation from all areas and a balance of ages, we ran a paid-for recruitment campaign on our social media channels. We also shared the volunteering opportunity with our local authority and youth work partners. Once we'd received the applications, we ran an in-person selection day and 15 young people were invited to join the panel.

The Panel meets each quarter for 2 to 3 hours. Initially this was face-to-face; however, this was moved online due to lockdown. We use Zoom for group video calls, as well as a number of complementary apps which add functionality.

During the meetings, the Panel discusses topics of interest for NHS Lothian. So far, these discussions have focused on the redesign of the St. John's Hospital A&E department, design of the new Edinburgh Cancer Centre and Teenage Cancer Trust unit, remote delivery of outpatient services, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, and NHS Lothian's responses to COVID-19. After each session, we produce a short report that captures the output of the workshop, and share this with NHS Lothian.

Although the pandemic has delayed the progress of certain projects, feedback from the Panel has nevertheless proved vital in the initial planning and design stages. The Panel's work formed a key component of ensuring the design of the proposed new Edinburgh Cancer Centre incorporated the views and requirements of a diverse range of voices.

What worked well

Running workshops via Zoom allows young people to easily access the sessions. To ensure a fulfilling experience, we make the sessions very interactive using breakout rooms and digital whiteboards. We use Trello, Jamboard and Miro to allow the group to see and interact with information in different ways. We support these sessions with Basecamp – allowing the group to communicate with each other outside of the workshops, and giving them access to documents and information.

Tools like Trello, Jamboard and Miro let young people see and interact with information in different ways, and can be amended by staff while screensharing, or directly by the young people. Tools like Mentimeter and Alchemer are used for data collection, with Mentimeter preferred for synchronous (real-time) engagement and Alchemer for asynchronous engagement such as surveys.

Most young people are positive about our new style of digital workshops and we use continuous feedback to refine our digital delivery techniques.

I love the digital workshops. I find them good practice for presenting and I enjoy the variety of topic we cover and speakers we get on. Because they're digital, they're so much more accessible and allow me to make commitments that I wouldn't be able to make otherwise.

#YSHive volunteer


Despite having many advantages - such as ease of access - running workshops online does present challenges. They run the risk of reducing the 'social experience' for young people who take part. This is due to them having less informal or unstructured time with each other – as their breaks are taken away from the screen rather than together. We compensate for this by running short games and icebreakers, for example 'show and tell', 'speed-meeting' in breakout rooms, and Pictionary on the Zoom whiteboard.

Digital access can also be a challenge. Some young people don't have access to a reliable internet connection, or a device to use to join the session. For others, they don't have a quiet space or might be uncomfortable sharing their background.

In support, we are able to supply equipment such as microphones and headphones. We also don't require participants to share their screens if they don't feel comfortable doing so. We phone all young people before the workshops to make sure they're feeling comfortable and to address any accessibility issues.

Traditionally, our face-to-face workshops would have lasted 4 to 5 hours, depending on the topic and the amount to be covered. To support our young volunteers' wellbeing, we limit online workshops to between 2 and 3 hours. This includes plenty of time for breaks so as to avoid fatigue. We've adjusted the length of projects to take account of this.


Ellie Snape (Co-Design Officer, Young Scot)


Image by Jagrit Parajuli from Pixabay

Last Updated: 19 April 2023