Managing communications and consultations with your user communities
The NHS and other public bodies now have to involve and consult patients, users and the public in the planning of service provision, the development of proposals for change and decisions about how services operate. Better decisions are made if more people’s views, perspectives and suggestions are heard. This is the approach and it sounds great. The challenge is as ever – how to do it in practice? How can you generate interest and input to your consultation? What sort of meetings should you be organising – large open public meetings or smaller organisation or sector-specific ones? How should you report back?
M-A-C Aims and Approach
To enable managers in public and private bodies to develop an effective and credible set of consultative and communication policies and practices that will:
- Identify with confidence those to be consulted
- Use the most appropriate and cost-effective channels for communication with that community
- Present facts and arguments in a way that encourages public debate – not stifles it
- Collect and store the responses in an organised and accessible way
- Report back in a way that sustains trust in and respect for the process
- Generate understanding of the reasons for the actions taken subsequently
The M-A-C partners have been involved in many consultations from both sides of the fence – being consulted and doing the consulting. Our combined experience in professional and voluntary bodies and private and public organisations including the civil service has shaped what we do and the way we do it. We can come in at any stage of the process to assist you to
- plan the consultative process
- write your document
- brief, commission and manage printers, designers or database consultants
- create a consultative website
- design and manage any user surveys
- provide public relations services with media and key stakeholders
Then we can take the comments on board, analyse and summarise them and weigh them up to produce a report on what those consulted have said and what the service running the consultation needs to know. We can present the results to your Board or key committee or brief your staff to do this.
A Shared Endeavour
We can take as much or as little of the process under our wing as you like. We counsel against asking external consultants to manage essentially internal management relationships and processes as you are better at getting that right inside your own organisation than we are. Also we advise you that you must show your face at your own events and make yourselves available during the consultation (hiring consultants to handle all the calls and chair or facilitate the meetings is, in our view, highly counter-productive).
Project Implementation and Costs
A M-A-C Partner would be designated as your key project contact with other partners brought in as required for the project programme. The level of support you need will be defined and costed. There are no ‘off the shelf’ standard solutions – everything is tailored to your needs and your budget.
Some examples of our work in communication and consultation:
Assisting the City and Hackney Teaching Primary Care Trust as they consulted on how to provide Continuing Care on a basis that meets the needs of users and makes the best use of the money available. (completed April 2005)
Devising workshops for GP practice managers in the Wandsworth South locality of Wandsworth PCT on “Involving Users to Improve the Patient Experience” (ongoing)
SCOPE Patient and Public Involvement Forum Support Organisation in South West London commission to train FSO staff on public involvement issues (December 2004)