Online community engagement in Glasgow

Online community engagement in Glasgow

During the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde carried out a range of remote and online engagement with local communities to find out people's experiences of accessing services in new ways.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has had to adapt and implement new ways of working. The Patient Experience and Public Engagement Team carried out a programme of engagement on behalf of the board's Recovery Tactical Group to gather the views of patients, relatives and carers on what matters to them when accessing services in new ways.

Engagement focused on 3 service areas:

  • GP Out of Hours services - introduction of appointment system
  • Near Me online video appointments and consultations
  • Community Assessment Centres and Hub Services – dedicated spaces for people seeking advice and support while exhibiting potential COVID-19 symptoms

What we did

With physical distancing measures in place, we decided online engagement was the most appropriate way to safely capture people's experiences. People and communities were encouraged to share their views through a number of ways:

  • Online surveys, featuring a mixture of open and closed questions, were shared regularly on social media through both standard and boosted posts.
  • Text messages with a link to the GP Out of Hours online survey were sent to a random sample of 425 patients as a follow-up to their appointment.
  • Semi-structured interviews, by telephone or a video call, were offered to respondents of both the GP Out of Hours survey and the Community Assessment Centre survey who wanted to discuss their experiences in more detail.
  • Members of our Involving People Network were invited to take part in a virtual focus group to discuss their experiences of using video consultations, as part of the Near Me study.
  • We also encouraged people to share their experiences and comments directly via Facebook and Twitter, and by posting on Care Opinion.

Across the 3 different work streams, and the multiple communication channels, we engaged with the following numbers:

  • 703 people completed surveys
  • 10 semi-structured interviews
  • 10 people attended virtual focus groups
  • 4 posts on Care Opinion
  • 12 comments received via Facebook and Twitter

What worked well

By offering a range of ways to share their views and experiences, people could take part in a way that suited them best.

Online surveys enabled people to share their views without having to travel and at a time that was convenient to them. By promoting the surveys via social media, we were able to reach people of all ages – from under 16 to over 75s – as well as people from across all health and social care partnerships.

Semi-structured interviews provided us with more in-depth information regarding people's care experience, while allowing them to tell their story in their own words, and to explore what had worked well or areas of improvement through their care journey.

The online surveys included an optional equalities monitoring form. More people than expected – 70% – completed it. The anonymous data allowed us to check that we had engaged with people from groups protected by the Equality Act and has helped us to identify gaps in our engagement approaches.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde provides a number of national and West of Scotland services, and social media enabled wider reach to get feedback from patients living in other health board areas including Dumfries and Galloway and the Western Isles.

The virtual focus groups also provided us with valuable feedback about online video appointments and consultations, including what was important to people when using Near Me, what had worked well and areas for improvement. Keeping the focus groups small, using an ice breaker, and ensuring the facilitator had several prompts to keep the discussion flowing helped to ensure that participants felt that their views had been heard:

“It was chaired well. It was a small group but we were given the opportunity to speak”

“Small and friendly so felt comfortable sharing my views”

“As our group was small, it was easy to put across my own feelings”


The restrictions put in place during the pandemic meant that we had to use a digital-first approach. We will continue to use online and remote engagement as it can help us to reach people that we may otherwise not reach.

However, we recognised that online engagement approaches may not be accessible for, or reach, everyone. Online engagement may exclude people who lack suitable devices or resources, who are unfamiliar with technology or who do not have a safe space to talk privately. A blended approach to engagement, incorporating both online and offline methods, will be used when it is safe to do so.

The information we received from our equality monitoring forms confirmed that our engagement process had not captured the experiences of all our communities. For the Near Me study, our Equalities and Human Rights Team helped us to carry out one-to-one interviews with interpreter support with 22 people whose first language was not English (covering 12 different languages). The team also helped us interview 12 people living with a disability and PAMIS, an organisation that supports people with profound and multiple learning disabilities and their carers, gathered views from carers and shared them with us.

Although we engaged with a variety of people, we had hoped to be able to trigger more real-time comments and engagement on social media platforms from both people and organisations. Going forward we will explore different ways to encourage more participation and discussion using our social media channels such as quick polls, live Q&A to capture views, ideas and experiences.

Whilst the GP Out of Hours engagement was effective, it was resource intensive for the service to manually text 425 people to encourage them to share their experiences. We are exploring alternatives such as automated texting services to gather feedback from people following their recent experiences.

Regarding the virtual focus groups, we had arranged sessions at different times of the day to make it easier to attend. However, we saw limited uptake, and in hindsight it may have helped to send additional reminders or perhaps send joining details directly rather than using Eventbrite to register. We also hope in future to make more effective use of social media to further promote focus group opportunities.


Patient Experience and Public Involvement Team (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde)


Image credit: NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Last Updated: 19 April 2023