About the Author: Rachel Smyth

28 March 2022

As part of our goal to grow and diversify, we’re pleased to welcome Engage Britain as a new partner of the Coalition. Engage Britain is an independent charity that brings people together to tackle the country’s biggest challenges.
 
Miriam Levin, a Programme Director with Engage Britain, describes why the charity was set up, “The rationale behind Engage Britain is that the country is facing these really massive, intractable problems – huge things, like housing, environment, health and social care – and the usual way we deal with creating policy in these areas just isn’t cutting it in terms of solving the most challenging issues. The reality is that, when national policy is being made, it is very, very rarely done by listening to the people most impacted upon by that policy.

“We believe we are likely to understand the problems more fully and come up with a better range of solutions if we talk to people who are facing these issues and place them at the heart of the process.”
 
Throughout 2018 through to 2021, Engage Britain hosted a series of polls to understand what the biggest issues facing the country really were. Each year, access to health and care was ranked the number one issue facing the country across all demographics. Identifying this as the first key issue they would tackle, Engage Britain developed 101 community conversations across England, Scotland and Wales, hearing from a broad range of people about the issues that mattered most to them in health and care. The stories which were shared were organised into themes by the conversation hosts and Engage Britain set up the People’s Panel on health and care –  a citizens’ assembly of 100 people broadly representative of the population- which came together to prioritise those issues and work out what should be tackled first. What emerged were two top priorities:
 

  • How do we recruit, train and retain social care staff?
  • How do we tackle the poor communication that exists within the NHS and between the NHS and the public, including the impact that has on people?

 
Miriam explained to us, “Ultimately, this is about making sure that everyone gets the health and care that they need. The next steps of our work will be bringing people together to look at solutions which will work for every part of the system. We’ll then test those with a wider audience because they need to be realistic, sustainable and financially viable. We’re trying to get to a series of practical, concrete, fundable solutions that both the public and politicians can get behind.
 
“It’s important to us to join the Coalition for Personalised Care, because that network is also seeking to change health and care for the better. We want to support organisations seeking to improve health and care and draw on the expertise of the rest of the partnership to make what we’re doing better and more robust. There is great power in us working together towards that common purpose.
 
“One of the primary issues we are seeking to tackle is that of poor communication in health and care. People kept telling us how lost they feel in a complicated, fragmented system which all too often treats people as a collection of symptoms and conditions. For example, not knowing how long you have to wait to get a referral. For me, the notion of personalised care is absolutely fundamental to that because people need to be seen holistically as human beings with agency.
 
“Practically speaking, we think the C4PC Network could be hugely helpful as we’re keen to find examples of good practice in communication. Everyone seems to have a story where things haven’t been so good, but we know there are great examples out there; times when patients felt informed, listened to, and supported throughout their whole journey. Examples could include where the patient is kept up to date with what’s happening with their referral, knows how to ask questions, change or cancel appointments, and doesn’t have to repeat their story to multiple doctors.
 
“We want to gather those and put them in front of members of the public, staff and people with complex care needs, to assess, see what works for them and build on them to co-design new ways to improve communication between the health service and people.”
 
If you have examples of great practice in this respect, Miriam would be delighted to hear from you – get in touch with her at Miriam.Levin@engagebritain.org. You can also get involved with a number of different aspects of Engage Britain’s work here.