Wessex Voices – A unique partnership between Local Healthwatches and health

August 1, 2016

Wessex Voices, supported by PPI solutions, is a unique partnership of five local Healthwatches (Dorset, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Portsmouth and Southampton), Help and Care (a south coast based charity), and NHS England (Wessex) and the Wessex Clinical Networks.  The project has two main aims:

–       to support health colleagues to improve and share good practice in patient and public engagement (PPE) in commissioning – currently focussed on  cancer, primary care and public health services, and

–       to support a network of volunteers who want to be involved in opportunities to influence these services in ways that suit them.

To date, the project has offered development sessions to people who are interested in having a voice in influencing health services so they can explore and understand how to be an effective patient representative.  The partnership has created a well-received blog and ‘Good practice framework and step by step guide to PPE in commissioning’, which is also mentioned in NHS England’s ‘Framework for patient and public participation in primary care commissioning’. The guide is currently being refreshed into a more complete online tool so it is easier to share, update and interact with.

The Wessex Voices Steering Group, made up of all the partners, has also become a valuable resource for health colleagues as they act as a sounding board for those embarking on PPE activities.  They come there for advice and support on how best to engage with people related to the particular activity they want to undertake. Local Healthwatches share their existing intelligence and reports, as well as key community and voluntary contacts that may be useful to talk to, and the Group advise on an appropriate approach to explore and take.

As the project features in NHS England’s annual report (page 37), it is worth reflecting on the valuable learning so far from this unusual collaboration.  For Local Healthwatches, it has been around maintaining their independence; and understanding the importance of good communication, and the challenges being faced by the NHS in terms of the pace and scale of change.  For NHS England colleagues, building stronger relationships both with Local Healthwatch organisations and each other has helped move PPE closer to decision making and has real potential to influence the system going forward.

A Project Manager, employed by Help and Care, is now in place to coordinate and further develop the project. Their first task is to explore with NHS England (Wessex) and Clinical Network colleagues their plans to involve people in more detail and get them to define what questions they want to understand from a patient’s perspective.   Keeping the network of volunteers interested by promoting opportunities to get involved is also fundamental.

Everyone involved with the project would like to thank Jessie Cunnett for helping establish the project and for providing ongoing support, through chairing the steering group, and by providing the training and sharing some of her resources.

For more information contact Sue Newell, Project Manager on sue.newell@helpandcare.org.uk or 07595 424198




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