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Rebecca Malin on how we’re using feedback from local people on proposals for new hospital facilities

Photograph of Rebecca Malin, Programme Director for the Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme

Feedback, ideas and insights from patients and the public are vital to ensuring that proposed changes to hospital facilities in Lancashire and South Cumbria have a positive impact on care in our region. Here, Rebecca Malin, Programme Director for the New Hospitals Programme, explains how we’ve reached out to local people so far and how this will play an important part in decision making during the next stage of the New Hospitals Programme’s process.

How has the New Hospitals Programme been engaging with the public and patients?

At this early stage in the New Hospitals Programme’s process, no decisions have been made. We don’t know what our new hospital facilities could look like or where they might be located. Although we’re at the beginning of a long process, it’s very important to seek feedback from the public and we will continue to do that every step of the way.

We’ve been asking for feedback, input, and ideas from the public since our programme launched. This was during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic so initially, we concentrated on digital communications. As restrictions have started to lift, we’ve been able to, very carefully, start to speak to more people face-to-face and this will continue as the programme gathers pace. This has meant we’ve been able to reach a much broader section of the local population, something which is a huge priority for us. Here are some examples of how we’ve been gathering our feedback:

Website and social media

Since our website launched, it’s had a dedicated Get Involved section, to provide information on all of the different ways you can have your say. This is regularly updated as new surveys, polls and events and activities take place. Our social media channels are updated almost daily with news and information about the programme, with space for real-time comments and feedback.

Healthwatch roadshows

We’ve also been out and about, chatting with local people at in-person roadshows around the region, organised by Healthwatch Together. Healthwatch is the independent national champion for people who use health and social care services, and Healthwatch Together (opens in new window), is a group of Healthwatch organisations which have joined forces in Lancashire and South Cumbria.

16 roadshow events took place in different locations in the autumn of 2021. They provided an opportunity for local people to ask questions face-to-face and have their say. The main topic of conversation at these events was the longlist of possible solutions for hospital facilities in Lancaster, Preston and Barrow-in-Furness.

Healthwatch interviews with underrepresented groups

The programme is also committed to ensuring we hear from people who have conditions that make them more likely to require regular hospital visits and communities that are often underrepresented in health decision making. Working with Healthwatch, we’ve reached out to a wide variety of groups including ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities, people who are homeless, people with language barriers, military veterans, rural communities and ex-offenders. Interviews have taken place in person and over the phone.

MP and local councillor meetings

We’ve also been in regular communication with local MPs and councillors to update them on the programme and hear their views on behalf of their constituents.

How has the New Hospitals Programme been involving staff and other community representatives?

Of course, our clinical experts and thousands of other NHS staff across the region have vital feedback as well. To enable them to share their views, the New Hospitals Programme launched an online platform specifically for engaging with local NHS staff, community representatives and Foundation Trust Members. Known as The Big Chat, the platform has been used to ask people about their hopes, fears and expectations for proposals for new hospital facilities.

It has also been used to share important programme updates including the Case for Change and the selection criteria that will be used to determine the shortlist and the longlist of proposals. Updates have been shared via the usual professional channels, including staff newsletters and email updates. We also held two colleague summits in March. The New Hospitals Programme team has joined team meetings and forums to provide updates and answer questions.

How many people has the New Hospitals Programme spoken to so far?

As of 30 November 2021, 12,281 different individuals have been involved in one or more New Hospitals Programme engagement activities. Public and patients account for 29% of these interactions and Trust staff account for 23%. Inclusion groups (including those with protected characteristics) and service users (especially those who have difficulty with mobility, stamina, dexterity and mental cognisance) each make up 22% of interactions. The remaining interactions have come from expert patient groups and political stakeholders.

The Big Chat platform for staff, community representatives and Foundation Trust Members has received 22,374 visits, (12,586 unique visitors), with 3,000 people joining the conversation.

We would like to say a big thank you to everyone who has taken the time to share their views and suggestions to date. We really welcome your feedback and are keen to hear from more people across our diverse local community. Please do get involved, have your say and encourage your friends, family and colleagues to do the same. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for our region.

What’s going to happen next?

This feedback and comments received to date are now being incorporated into decision making as we begin to narrow down the proposals into a shortlist.

Our next step is to work with a panel of experts made up of clinical leaders and hospital construction, financial and logistics specialists, as well as local NHS leaders, stakeholders and, of course, patient representatives. They have the essential, but challenging, task of putting each possibility to the test against a set of criteria called Critical Success Factors.

These have been designed to meet the requirements of the NHS and the Government. This group will produce a shortlist of proposals that will be subject to much more detailed analysis to determine a preferred option or options for new hospital facilities. We will continue to report back on what we hear.

The engagement summarised here is from our early options development phase and is not part of a public consultation at this point. We are currently gathering initial feedback and are committed to involving local people, staff and wider stakeholders at every stage of the process. We may need to hold a public consultation later in the process, depending on the proposals put forward for consideration.

Keep up-to-date on all the latest news from the New Hospitals Programme

Author: Rebecca Malin, Programme Director for the Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme.

Read more about the shortlist of proposals for new hospital facilities in our region.

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© 2021 Lancashire and South Cumbria New Hospitals Programme.