NHS Barnsley, in partnership with the council, operates one of the largest service provider operations in England, with an annual budget of £130 million. The Transforming Community Services (TCS) initiative, which seeks to separate the commissioning and service provision arms of PCTs, was therefore seen as a critical issue for which comprehensive and inclusive public and staff consultation was required. This had to be conducted in a limited timescale of 5 months, in order for the NHS Barnsley Board to consider the outcomes of the consultation in line with the DH timetable, and dealt with a difficult subject to communicate – the legal and organisational status under which services should be provided in future.
What did we do?
For this project Quadrant joined forces with The Campaign Company (TCC), a consultancy with indepth experience of conducting public consultations.
In order to engage with the public, we created messages which described the organisation structural options in terms of possible outcomes for Barnsley residents.
Consultation was conducted at several levels and through a variety of means. Local organisations, voluntary and special interest groups were consulted directly. Public meetings were advertised and run to explain the possible options and outcomes. A telephone poll of residents was conducted.
A critical element of the consultation was the creation and management of a ‘People’s Panel’. This recruited 20+ local residents who were broadly representative of the local population. They were briefed in detail about what options were available and what were the benefits and drawbacks of each, in order to allow them to make an informed decision. Representatives from the commissioner and provider arms of NHS Barnsley and the local Acute Trust were called as witnesses to the Panel where they delivered presentations and answered specific questions from Panel members.
What was the breakthrough for NHS Barnsley?
The process described gave local residents a real say in a proposed major change in how services could be delivered in the future. A challenging subject was brought to life, and the People’s Panel was able to reach a consensus on the best way forward for the PCT. Coincidentally, their preference was a precise match of the result of the staff consultation, which was conducted internally in parallel with the public consultation process.