News and Comment

Giving Local People a Voice

Monday 6 February 2017

Starting last week OPM Group delivered the first of six events on behalf of the team in South West London developing the area’s Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP). Along with 43 other partnerships across the country, the area is developing a five-year plan to ensure quality of care is maintained in the context of changing demographics and challenging finances.

Some are sceptical about the value of engaging people who use services in this challenging process. Others are choosing to take the route of commissioning communications agencies to support their proposals, seeing it as necessary to ‘sell’ their ideas to people locally.

It is refreshing to work with the NHS in South West London, who are genuinely open to hearing what people have to say, and are committed to listening. While their plans are by no means without controversy – their STP proposes exploring the potential for consolidating acute care from 5 sites to 4 or 3 – they are also not set in stone. The debate reflected this position, with people raising concerns and the team responding constructively. It felt like people were committing to working together to find ways to solve the healthcare challenges in South West London.

People attending these open invite events came from a range of backgrounds – including interested members of the public, local NHS workers, representatives of local campaigning groups and local councillors. It was interesting to see how this diverse audience were very aware of the challenges facing the NHS, and agreed that there was a case for change. Of course, views diverge on what the answers should be, but that is where the discussion gets interesting.

These events are just one step on the journey. As the proposals become firmer (and if in the future they put forward major changes to health services) the NHS in SW London will run a full public consultation on their plans. But, importantly, their plans will already be informed by, and respond to, local people’s concerns. That doesn’t guarantee everyone will be happy with the plans, but it does give SW London an idea of how it can mitigate against the causes of concern.

Anyone living in SW London is welcome to sign up to attend one of the five remaining events. Details are available here.