It has been in the news almost since the day the coalition came into power, but despite the best and very vocal efforts of particular politicians, certain members of the Lords, particular factions of the larger professional bodies and the “Block the Bill” campaigners, the Health and Social Care Bill seems, finally, to be happening. That said, there is still some way to go and there are some crucial questions that need to be answered, not least on the issue of accountability and the lead role that the Secretary of State for Health will have.
Here at Aurora we have been following the progress of this bill very closely. As well as being passionate about all things healthcare, we ourselves are service users, patients and carers. As the White Paper was being passed from Commons to Lords, Professor Steve Field and The Future Forum were undertaking the second phase of the listening exercise. As opposed to phase one, which focused more on structure, roles and responsibilities within the ‘new’ NHS, the second phase was about engaging with patients, service users and professionals on issues of:
- How to develop information that improves health, care and wellbeing
- How to educate and train the healthcare workforce to deliver world-class healthcare
- How to better integrate services around people’s needs
- How to ensure the public’s health remains at the heart of the NHS
At Aurora, we strongly believe that the NHS is the jewel in the British crown and it needs to be treated and revered as such. We are exceptionally lucky to have access to such a public service and therefore we could not let the second listening phase pass without expressing our thoughts and opinions.
How did we do this? Well, using a slide deck developed by the Department of Health (DH) and downloadable from the DH website, the agency sat down and held our own listening event, working through the questions that were divided up into the four categories listed above. While the slide deck was possibly not the most user friendly PowerPoint presentation in the world (responses on the website tended to agree with us on this), it did provide a spring board for some interesting debate and discussion. Sadly, we were not able to answer all the questions as some of them required an intimate knowledge and understanding of, say, the current state of integrated social and health care. However, we collated all our remaining thoughts and responses in the dedicated feedback form and submitted this to the DH.
While we very much appreciate the DH wanting to listen to the general public, a lot of us questioned how they had gone about this. An automated ‘thank you’ email upon submission of our feedback form would have been a polite gesture. As well as providing the slide deck, the DH held a ‘series’ of listening events across the country. In fact, most of the listening events were aimed at community healthcare professionals and there were only two listening events for patients and the public – one in Leeds and one in London, both in the middle of the day on a weekday. Even with the best will in the world, not everyone with something to contribute could have dropped their work and/or families to participate.
Our solution, our proposal
This prompted the following question – if the DH employed us, Aurora, to undertake a true public listening exercise focused exclusively on patients and the public, how would we go about this?
Well, firstly it has to be informative and engaging enough to rouse public interest, it also has to be on a very public platform and public participation/feedback is essential for success. Cue…. the televised discussion/quiz show ‘Your health, Your NHS, Your Say’ (a working title).
If you think of a cross between ‘Big fat quiz of the year’ and the televised electoral debates, add a mixture of celebrity panellists, some professional group representation (RCGP, BMA, RCN), NHS staff of various disciplines, DH politicians and of course public participation, then you are on the right lines. Organised by the DH and hosted by well-loved television presenters such as Phillip Schofield and Fern Britton, these panellists would debate the key points in each of the four major topics up for discussion (information, education and training, integrated care and public health), help the general public understand the proposed changes taking place to the NHS and stimulate and request audience participation/feedback.
The celebrities would be carefully chosen to appeal to different demographics to ensure that as many people from across the UK tuned in and participated. These panellists would also be chosen because they promote healthy and active lifestyles such as Jamie Oliver, Sue Barker, Davina McCall, Gary Lineker as well as well-known 2012 UK athletes like Victoria Pendleton, Chris Hoy, Rebecca Adlington and Amir Khan.
If the quiz is held on commercial channel, the programme could be sponsored by a healthy-living 2012 Olympics sponsor such as Adidas, which would provide funding for the programme. Healthy-living adverts could also be shown in the breaks, providing an additional revenue stream.
To unite online and offline discussion, the TV show would have a dedicated webpage on the broadcaster’s website with a live, online discussion board running simultaneously. Questions posted on this discussion board, together with Twitter feed questions, would be passed to the presenters and be incorporated in the broader discussion.
To say that we were very excited about this idea is a complete understatement. We came barrelling out of the meeting convinced this would be a success, desperate to pitch the idea to the DH and someone even started humming the theme tune! So, Professor Field, if you are really listening and you like our thinking, please give us a call and we would be delighted to help you.