‘I was struck by how much thought the Panel members put into their feedback’

Our Health and Care Director, Miriam Levin, reflects on the latest People’s Panel

When The People’s Panel prioritised ‘poor communication between NHS services, departments and patients’, it really struck a chord.

Whenever I talk to anybody and say we’re doing this piece of health and care work – about appointments and referrals, knowing when your referral is going to be, knowing who to talk to within the system, how difficult it is – the answer is always ‘I get it. This is exactly what’s happened to me. Let me tell you my story.’

So the Panel catalysed a whole set of actions we’ve been putting into place.

And while everyone’s got a story about the things that are going wrong, we also wanted to the flip the question on its head. We thought it would be good to look for examples of good practice happening out there right now.

So we partnered up with Imperial College Health Partners (ICHP). They went through their networks and their databases to research examples. And came back with eight case studies of the NHS communicating with people in a different way.

Some were digital solutions or apps. Others were ways of handling people face to face. ICHP presented these case studies back to the Panel and asked: Would these kinds of ideas help?

I was struck by how much thought the Panel members put into their feedback. They could imagine how things might play out for them. As well as for people who aren’t digitally literate, find it harder to navigate the system or have complex health needs.  

They shared what they liked and didn’t like. And interrogated how feasible the ideas would be if rolled out more widely. Some examples went down well, particularly ‘No Wrong Door’.

This is a mental health service initiative run on the Isle of Wight. The premise is that it doesn’t matter at what stage you enter the service. You’ll be taken in, pointed the right way and – the key bit – never have to repeat your story.

The Panel really loved that. They wanted to see it happen beyond mental health services, too.

Next, the Panel will be figuring out some principles of change around how the NHS communicates with people.

They’ll also share thoughts on how to get poor communications further up the political agenda. Because it isn’t really being talked about now. If that could happen, what’s the best way to talk to politicians about why this stuff matters?