An engaging idea

Source: NHE May/June 15

Most CCGs say they want to put patients at the heart of what they do. But actually putting this into practice takes effort. NHE spoke to Colin Philpott, lay member for patient and public involvement at NHS Bradford Districts CCG and its vice-chair, to hear about its pioneering approach.

“Fundamentally, if you want to try to deliver the best possible services, the most important group of people you need to talk to are the people who are going to use those services. It’s as simple as that, and it’s a principle that applies in every field of human activity, not just the NHS.” 

That was Colin Philpott’s answer when we asked why Bradford Districts CCG has put so much time and effort into patient engagement, which we thought was a great way of thinking about it. Lots of evidence shows that good patient experience is linked to improved clinical outcomes, too. 

He told us: “It’s characteristic of what’s happened in this CCG that right from the beginning, when the CCG started three years ago, patient engagement has been taken very seriously. It would be very easy to just pay lip service to these sorts of principles, but then not put it at the heart of what you do.” 

Patients and the public are involved in all aspects of the CCG’s work, and patients Wendy Parkin and Emma Stafford (who are involved with successful practice patient groups at Wilsden and Shipley, respectively) attend meetings to share their experiences of developing a patient group network and working with the CCG. 

That network is a point of pride for Philpott. It arose from linking up the existing practice-level patient groups into a federation, and then involving some of those people in CCG-level decision-making. Having patient representatives at the CCG’s governing body’s strategy development sessions – which, unlike the main governing body sessions, are not open to the public – is “one way of ensuring they do have influence, to have them sat round that table,” Philpott said. 

Of the 41 practices in the patch, Philpott said he’d met the patient groups of about 30, and seen big differences in their approach and influence. Some are now ‘buddied up’, with more developed groups helping guide less developed ones. 

Taking it seriously 

Philpott said that anecdotally, talking to counterparts at other CCGs, he thinks Bradford Districts is particularly forward-thinking and proactive on patient engagement, though was modest enough to add: “I’m sure there are some others that are more pioneering than us. But if there was any kind of league table, I’m confident we’d be high.” 

One example of a direct difference the patient representatives have made is in ‘customer care’ – specialist training for staff, including GP receptionists, as covered in the previous edition of NHE – to improve customer service. “That came directly out of feedback from patients not happy with that customer service,” Philpott said. 

“As another example, the biggest single health campaign we’ve got is Bradford Healthy Hearts. Incidence of heart disease here is above-average on most indicators, something the CCG itself recognised. The shape of that campaign has very much been influenced by the patient network.” 

Monitoring and evaluation 

It is also important to monitor and evaluate what patients and the public are saying. Bradford Districts uses a system called Grass Roots to do this. Philpott explained: “It’s an attempt to create some order out of what could potentially be quite chaotic. It’s all very well getting patient feedback in various forms, but one could end up being overwhelmed by the amount of information.” 

The monthly, public report, pulled together from lots of different sources, is used all over the organisation. “I’d summarise it as ‘public opinion this month in Bradford about the NHS’: it includes all sorts of things, from comments that come through the patient network, to specific consultation answers, things from the complaints process, and now feedback from GPs themselves.” 

It is especially useful when matched with hard data from the providers, Philpott said, adding that it also includes a ‘you said, we did’ section: “If you encourage the idea you want lots of involvement and feedback, then the worst thing is for it to then disappear into the ether. People can very quickly get disillusioned if they don’t think they’re having an influence, or getting no answer. It’s important to give people an answer – even if it’s not always the answer they want.” 

Data from the Friends & Family Test also provides value, Philpott said. “There was some understandable scepticism when it first came in, but actually once the main providers got their act together in terms of getting a decent level of response – because that was the first challenge, particularly in A&E – it proved useful.” 

Philpott, a former head of BBC Yorkshire and director of the National Media Museum in Bradford, now presents the CCG’s regular monthly local radio programme, ‘Your Good Health’, which holds NHS leaders to account but also airs patient stories. 

He concluded: “There are still some challenges, and we need to see the process through, but patient engagement is something the overwhelming majority of people – clinicians, managers, people in GP practices – believe in and take seriously.”

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


There are no comments. Why not be the first?

Add your comment

national health executive tv

more videos >

latest healthcare news

NHS England commits £30m to join up HR and staff rostering systems

09/09/2020NHS England commits £30m to join up HR and staff rostering systems

As NHS England looks to support new ways of working, it has launched a £30m contract tender for HR and staff rostering systems, seeking sup... more >
Gender equality in NHS leadership requires further progress

09/09/2020Gender equality in NHS leadership requires further progress

New research carried out by the University of Exeter, on behalf of NHS Confederation, has shown that more progress is still needed to achieve gen... more >
NHS Trust set for big savings in shift to digital patient letters

09/09/2020NHS Trust set for big savings in shift to digital patient letters

Up and down the country, NHS trusts are finding new and innovative ways to leverage the power of digital technologies. In Bradford, paper appoint... more >

the scalpel's daily blog

Covid-19 can signal a new deal with the public on health

28/08/2020Covid-19 can signal a new deal with the public on health

Danny Mortimer, Chief Executive, NHS Employers & Deputy Chief Executive, NHS Confederation The common enemy of coronavirus united the public side by side with the NHS in a way that many had not seen in their lifetimes and for others evoked war-time memories. It was an image of defiance personified by the unforgettable N... more >
read more blog posts from 'the scalpel' >


NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

23/09/2019NHS England dementia director prescribes rugby for mental health and dementia patients

Reason to celebrate as NHS says watching rugby can be good for your mental health and wellbeing. As the best rugby players in the world repr... more >
Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

21/06/2019Peter Kyle MP: It’s time to say thank you this Public Service Day

Taking time to say thank you is one of the hidden pillars of a society. Being on the receiving end of some “thanks” can make communit... more >
Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

13/06/2019Nurses named as least-appreciated public sector workers

Nurses have been named as the most under-appreciated public sector professionals as new research reveals how shockingly under-vauled our NHS, edu... more >
Creating the Cardigan integrated care centre

10/06/2019Creating the Cardigan integrated care centre

Peter Skitt, county director and commissioner for Ceredigion Hywel Dda University Health Board, looks ahead to the new integrated care centre bei... more >

last word

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad: ‘We all have a role to play in getting innovations quicker’

Haseeb Ahmad, president of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), sits down with National Health Executive as part of our... more > more last word articles >

editor's comment

26/06/2020Adapting and Innovating

Matt Roberts, National Health Executive Editorial Lead. NHE May/June 2020 Edition We’ve been through so much as a health sector and a society in recent months with coronavirus and nothing can take away from the loss and difficulties that we’ve faced but it vital we also don’t disregard the amazing efforts we’v... read more >

health service focus

‘We are the NHS’: NHS England publish newest People Plan

30/07/2020‘We are the NHS’: NHS England publish newest People Plan

NHS England has published its People Plan for... more >
How NHS Property Services adapted to a new way of working

01/07/2020How NHS Property Services adapted to a new way of working

From May/June 2020 edition Trish Stephen... more >