Table of contents

Community involvement

Summary :: Our community :: Community involvement

Community involvement is an essential part of the planning of health services. It is also important in its own right as it strengthens democratic processes and encourages active citizenship. Under the Health and Social Care Bill, it will be a requirement that patients, the public, communities of interest, health and wellbeing boards and local authorities are included by Medway Commissioning Group (MCG) in everything it does, especially its decision making processes. Included in this will be mechanisms for gaining a broad range of views then analysing and acting on these so that it is clear and apparent how the engagement has influenced decision making. This will be done proactively rather than waiting for people to approach the commissioners. [1]

Patients registered with Medway GPs and everyone who usually lives in Medway, regardless of whether they are registered with a GP, are the responsibility of MCG. [1] In future, the registered population could potentially be harder to reach, as people will be allowed to register wherever they like, for example near where they work. This will require a rethink as to how commissioners can capture their patients' views.

The commissioners will have a duty to ensure that all communications and engagement activity is inclusive and does not disadvantage anyone in the community. This will mean ensuring that people who may not have equal access to information or opportunities to engage, are not disadvantaged by doing the following: [1]

• Working with Medway LINk/HealthWatch and community, patient and faith groups.
• Including the opinions of a wide range of people by establishing methods to make the Medway Health Network as representative as possible.
• Ensuring MCG's public events are accessible to everyone and that there is equal opportunity for people to be involved.
• Making it easy for everyone to access information and engage with MCG by making all of its information and communication channels accessible.
• Promoting ways that people can receive information from MCG in alternative formats and languages.
• Working closely with voluntary organisations to regularly review and test the accessibility of our information.

Individuals, groups and populations that historically have not accessed appropriate health services, or have sought the services at a later stage of their illness or condition, will be asked to work with MCG closely to address this problem.

Current mechanisms for engagement

Currently NHS Medway has a variety of channels and resources to communicate and engage with patients and residents, including meetings, printed media and electronic communications. Of the people in Medway who have access to the internet, 97% have access at home and 50% have access at work indicating potential access to several communication channels that are internet based. The following methods are currently in use:


YouTube — 1,108 people have viewed the You Tube channel and the videos have been viewed 1,719 times. The videos promote services available across a number of issues including long acting reversible contraception (LARC) and dementia support.

Twitter — an online social networking and micro blogging service that enables its users to send and read text-based posts of up to 140 characters, known as “tweets”. NHS Medway has two Twitter accounts: one, @NHSMedway, covers a wide range of topics including Chlamydia testing, CPR and what to do if you get injured, whilst the other, @ABetterMedway, covers health improvement issues such as exercise, stop smoking and healthy eating. Tweets are sent out randomly and only as often as is required to get a message across.

• @NHSMedway — there are 351 followers and since June 2011 there have been 387 tweets. Since the PCTs have clustered, the 3 accounts are managed centrally and a lot of the tweets are being distributed across West Kent and Eastern and Coastal Kent as well. This means that the reach of Medway's news is being made to people further afield (1,429 followers in West Kent and 1,217 followers in Eastern and Coastal Kent, all of which could potentially “retweet”). Users have utilised this channel to provide their feedback following a good or bad experience. (Numbers correct as at 7am on 6th March 2012)

• @ABetterMedway — there are currently 558 followers and this has increased by about 75 per month since the account was created last August. There have been a total of 225 “retweets”/ mentions/ discussion messages with followers from the Medway community since the account started. “Tweets” highlight campaigns, signpost to resources on the website and keep people up to date of current events. As at 7am on 6th March 2012, there have been 1,054 tweets sent out.

ISSUU — is an online platform designed to make it easier for people to find, read and follow NHS Medway's publications. There are 18 publications on our website including the Annual Public Health Report and 'Health Matters' (see below). Since it joined the site in March 2011, NHS Medway's documents have been viewed a total of 18,961 times with 370,158 unique page views.


Health Matters — is a magazine, approximately 20 pages long, that is published twice a year and delivered to all Medway residents. Smaller editions are included in the council's magazine, Medway Matters, six times a year. It covers a number of current health issues using case studies.

Growing Healthier — is a newsletter sent by email to everyone who has signed up for it. Currently around 1,000 people receive it, although only about 20% actually open it.

Groups and events

Medway Health Network (currently Medway LINk) — anyone can join this network to find out about and get involved in decision making to do with local healthcare. There are currently 365 members of the public and 143 voluntary and community organisations involved, plus around 650 businesses on the Network's database.

Medway Health Debate — The Medway Health Debate last year captured all strands of diversity as it was a culmination event following months of different engagements. Medway Commissioning Group is going to host similar events in the future to talk about commissioning.

Media — press releases and interviews with local and regional press. Interactions tend to be reactive, but if good work has been done, PCT staff will approach the media. There are also standard campaigns, for example breast cancer in women over 70.

Marketing and campaigns — there are a number of campaigns throughout the year supported by posters, leaflets and other media to advertise and inform. Examples are the current radio campaign for bowel cancer and the billboards that promoted the NHS health checks programme during April 2012.

Board meetings — are held bi-monthly and members of the public are welcome to observe the meetings and ask the Board questions. The location is published beforehand on the NHS Medway website along with the papers from previous meetings.

Partner's communication channels — mentions and links on other organisation's websites mean that the reach of information is widened. For example, Medway Council's site has links to NHS Medway's site and also contains information on wider issues such as winter health.

In order to reach all community groups, the NHS Medway Communications Team attends meetings already taking place in the community so that people do not have to attend more meetings than are necessary. When specific projects are undertaken, a certain demographic of the population is targeted.

The NHS Medway Communications Team is helping GPs to set up patient participation groups to capture the views of people who do not necessarily live in Medway but are registered here.

The following list is some of the communication methods MCG would like to explore and use in future: [1]

Questionnaire surveys — to measure attitudes and motivations, emotions, behaviour and self-perception. It could be written down or read out, carried out one-to-one, by post, via the internet or placed in a newsletter/paper/magazine. Satisfaction surveys — to measure the satisfaction of service users with regards to a product or service that they have received, for example a patient information leaflet. Interviewing — can be conducted in person or by telephone. They are helpful to identify issues that may not have been anticipated. Focus groups — bringing together a group of people with a common characteristic, to explore their attitude towards a service, concept or idea. Questions are asked to encourage participants to freely talk with other group members. Workshops — used to gather people together to problem solve the question under investigation and is reliant on the involvement of the participants and good facilitation. Patient panels — this approach involves the recruitment of volunteers (patients and carers) to join as panellists. Panel members are asked to give their views on a particular topic, concept or idea, for example hospital service changes. Involvement in the patient panel may be through meetings, workshops or questionnaire completion and participants should be provided with some background information. Citizens' juries — this technique allows jury members to thoroughly explore a particular issue and make informed recommendations, following presentation of evidence, to service providers. A jury is a group of people usually from 12 to 50. This approach is useful in clarifying and identifying issues.

Information and help will be available to people in a range of applications, from traditional leaflets and media to innovative smart phone apps and online applications in future, to make support from MCG easier to access and to improve the relationship between users and the provider. [1]

The Public Services (Social Value) Act

Receiving Royal Assent in March 2012, this Act requires public authorities to have regard to economic, social and environmental well-being in connection with public services contracts. [2] This means that public bodies, including councils, will commission services from providers who are committed to supporting the boroughs and communities they are working in whilst charging a fair price for the work. [3] Social enterprises use business to tackle social problems, improve life chances and improve the environment. It is a growing sector which currently employs almost one million people in the UK. They reinvest any profit back into the business/social endeavour and do not make profit for owners or stakeholders. [4] In practice this means that companies looking to provide a service will also need to consider how they will contribute to the community. For example, a public body may contract a company to undertake property repair work, which in turn commits to employing long term unemployed in the area and promoting construction in the local schools.


[1]   Lanker DS, Gaylor F, Patrick L. No decision about me, without me: Communications and Engagement Strategy 2011-13 2012; Medway Commissioning Group.
[2]   Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012 2012;
[3]   Social Enterprise UK. Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012;
[4]   Social Enterprise UK. Public Services (Social Value) Act 2012: A brief guide 2012; Social Enterprise UK. .