Healthwatch Cumbria (HWC) is very aware of current questions and concerns that the people of west Cumbria have about their local health services and in particular, their local hospital.
HWC has an independent role to act as the consumer champion for those who use health and social care services and, following discussions with the NHS, is setting up a West Cumbria Community Forum which will meet regularly over the coming months. The Forum will help to ensure that people’s voices are heard, that all stakeholders have an opportunity to discuss proposals and concerns and will aim to improve communications between all key stakeholders; representing relevant organisations and communities so that people can be more informed about why services may need to change.
The establishment of the Forum has the support of Cumbria Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust (NCUHT) and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (CPFT). All three organisations are committed to attending the meetings and providing members of the Forum with timely information. They have agreed that a key objective of the Forum is to develop and manage increased and focussed community engagement in West Cumbria with regards to the future delivery of health and care services.
Acting independently of these main NHS bodies, HWC wants to make sure that the passion and voice of local people is heard loudly in all the right places as decisions are made. HWC wants to ensure that people are properly informed as and when changes are considered and appropriately consulted when it is right to do so.
This level of two way communication will only be achieved if representatives of all local communities, community groups, representatives of local provider organisations and other interested parties are part of the Forum. In addition, appropriate mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure that discussions at the Forum are informed by and can inform all sectors of the community of west Cumbria.
At the same time, the NHS is clear that it needs to engage more locally and wants to work with HWC to create more opportunities for the voices of local people to be heard in the shaping of services for the future.
The West Cumbria Community Forum will have the following objectives:
- To hear the voice of the people of West Cumbria through a number of different mechanisms that can feed into its discussions. These may include analysis of findings from roadshows, surveys, and community conversations, essentially optimising existing channels of communication and engagement.
- To welcome key representatives, (including those who are involved in the campaign which led to the large public meeting at Whitehaven on 29 September 2014), Local MPs, all three tiers of elected members, local community representatives, representatives of third sector providers and representatives from CCG and NCUHT. They will come together on a regular basis to address issues of concern, discuss ways of ensuring that accurate and timely information is shared and ensure that all opportunities are taken for local engagement.
To provide an additional mechanisms to:
- Ensure that people’s concerns, anxieties, questions, ideas and experiences are heard by decision makers;
- Ensure that commissioners and providers have an additional opportunity to answer questions from the community, listen first-hand to concerns and provide timely and accurate information about planned changes;
- Ensure commissioners and providers have an additional opportunity to explain the proposed changes and describe how these can improve outcomes;
- Provide regular accurate briefings about strategic and operational developments, setting out what stays, what remains and why as soon as information is available;
- Ensure that the public are clear about which decisions will be subject to formal public consultation and explain exactly how and when this will happen.
- Ensure that their views are also taken into consideration over what processes might be used for consultation;
- Ensure that there are opportunities with community leaders to discuss, test out and demonstrate how real life scenarios will be managed in a west Cumbria setting; and
- To ensure that all opportunities for communicating with the public are used, including the use of short videos demonstrating real life experiences where outcomes have been improved through changed care pathways.
HWC has sent an invitation to a wide range of people and groups with the intention that all communities are represented. However, numbers will inevitably be limited so the intention is to relay meetings of the Forum through social media mechanisms. Minutes of the meetings will also be posted on the HWC website.
Representatives will be required to ensure that they meet regularly with the communities they are representing both before and after meetings of the Forum and that effective two-way communications are maintained.
It should be noted that the Forum will not be focussed on single issues or lobbying. It will be focussed on debate and discussion about shared issues and/or concerns that have been brought forward through its representatives and for which there is a demonstrable evidence base. Where individual experiences, concerns or complaints exist these can be shared directly with the appropriate NHS commissioner or provider organisations through, for example, complaints processes, or directly with HWC and/or the NHS Complaints Advocacy service.
More information about our NHS Complaints Advocacy Service can be found on the link below: