The “P” word is very important.   As Chair of Fife Health and Social Care Partnership’s Participation and Engagement Network

Ian Dall

Ian Dall

(P&EN), bringing the public closer, as equal partners to the conversation with health and social professionals about services locally and nationally, has never been more in the spotlight.

We hear in the news every other day about how, through the benefits of modern medicine, our ability to live longer is putting the strain on the care system and the public purse.  Centenarians are certainly more common than they used to be and this is a cause for celebration but it is also an issue that raises a serious point of debate.

Increasingly, the thought on how care for, not just the elderly, but people of all ages – those with disabilities, mental health conditions and complex care needs has never been more in the spotlight, but are the public really talking about it?

Where do we fit in the goliath world of NHS and social care?  Where do we start and what can we do about it anyway?

Are you sitting comfortably?  Then I’ll begin.   It was October 2012, when NHS Fife and Fife Council’s social work teams formed what was then, the first public engagement reference group, in which I was a member.   A proactive and welcome move as everyone started to get their heads around this new “I” word – Integration and I would like to take the opportunity to thank the many members, past and present, whose commitment and contribution has been invaluable to the progress we have made so far.

The first few years saw us inform, shape and help deliver three key consultations; the strategy for Fife, the localities across which services will work and the legal scheme against which the new Fife Health and Social Care Partnership must operate.  When it came to participation and engagement we held large scale workshops across the Kingdom to develop our Participation and Engagement Strategy (2016-19).

Now known as the P&EN our network continues to include a range of Fife residents and individuals as well as representatives from existing community organisations such as the Fife Forum, Alzheimer’s Scotland, Age Scotland and the People’s Panel.   We are involved in around 40 programmes of service change where we are able to have our say.

This month I am looking forward to attending a national public representatives workshop being held by the Scottish Government to meet and find out what others are doing across Scotland when it comes to public participation and involvement.

But, there is still a long way to go.   I understand that those leading Partnerships across Scotland are currently having to manage conflicting demands and work pressures, and also deliver to incredibly tight deadlines.  Networks such as the P&EN are the eyes and ears of the public and must be able to challenge.  I will be asking if there is a danger that under this pressure people retreat into their professional and organisational silos and adopt practices that maintain control, rather than work towards change for the better.  Are people prepared to challenge their assumptions around how patients and the public might react to changing the how and where we deliver health care to fit the modern day?

What might happen if a different conversation was initiated, involving local communities coming together with the leaders of local health and care services to engage in a dialogue about opportunities?

Well, in Fife we have already started. It is early days but new Locality Planning Groups are being set up across the Kingdom.  A huge programme of work, phase one brings together all the agencies and organisations that work to deliver services across the 7 localities of Fife, with public representation included.  Moving forward there needs to be more civic voice, and although this is frustrating now, it is a matter of time.

Having meaningful involvement will certainly confront existing assumptions held by all groups about how others might react when they come together. It will also generate different ways of looking at our current dilemmas, potentially enabling us to see new ways forward.

I am certain there are readers of this blog who will have their own examples of local initiatives where citizens, patients, voluntary/third sector organisations and statutory providers have come together in different and innovative ways to find a solution for a local health and care issue.

Trust and relationships are key, and many would argue will be the making or breaking of integration in the years ahead.  By continuing to listen and share experiences, the P&EN will ensure that the people of Fife continue to actively inform and shape the future of services for Fife.

Ian Dall,
Chair of the PEN

Would you like to get involved in the Participation & Engagement Network?  Contact:  Theresa Rodigan
Patient Relations Department & Participation & Engagement Network
1st Floor, Hayfield House

Direct Line: 01592-643355 x 28154