Giving power to the people

After years of trialing various healthcare models around the UK, policy-makers agree that 
co-production and partnership working is essential to rejuvenate our National Health system.

Co-production not only empowers the service-user by enabling them to contribute towards the health and social care services they want and need, it also gives them ownership of those services. In that way, they are moving away from a healthcare model based on dependency to one of control.

In delivering her 10-year vision to radically transform health and social care in Northern Ireland to the Assembly recently, Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, acknowledged that it could only be achieved through “partnership working and co-production”.

One of her first steps, Minister O’Neill said, was to establish an ‘improvement institute’ consisting of professionals and service-users to “bring existing experience and knowledge together to work in a different new way for a much greater impact”.

On 11 November, just a few weeks after announcing her healthcare reforms in Stormont, she published a consultation document to gain feedback from members of the public, and health and social care workers about whether services, based on seven criteria, need to be changed or are sustainable.

Of course, co-production is nothing new to the Patient and Client Council (PCC), which has been championing this way of working since it was established by the Department of Health in 2009.

Over the past seven years, the PCC has engaged with tens of thousands of people on a wide range of health and social care-related issues through our many surveys, focus groups, face-to-face interviews, workshops and contact with the general public at events right across Northern Ireland.

During that time, people have shared often difficult experiences with a view to helping others and improving our health and social care system. But nothing happens overnight, and it often takes many years of evidence-gathering, campaigning and highlighting issues before noticeable change happens and services begin to feel different.

Over the past seven years, we have listened to service-users as they have consistently raised issues over A&E services, staffing levels, waiting times for appointments, and mental health and learning disability services.

We have also supported, and lobbied on behalf of service-users with specific conditions, such as chronic pain, rare diseases, fibromyalgia, ME/CFS, Stage IV endometriosis and recurrent miscarriage.

Some of these key pieces of work have been documented in a report titled The People’s Voice as an illustration of the value of working in partnership with people to drive service change and improvement.

The fact that patient experience as a means of improving healthcare services is now included in the Northern Ireland Assembly Programme for Government is evidence that changes are possible whenever there is strong clinical and managerial leadership, and genuine engagement with service-users.

It is a welcome recognition of the outcomes that have and can be achieved if patients are listened to and recruited as partners in service design and delivery.

As we move forward with Minister O’Neill’s vision to transform health and social care in Northern Ireland, the PCC will continue to provide the ‘eyes and ears on the ground’ at policy, commissioning and service delivery levels of health and social care.

We will also continue to be the critical friend working with a strong evidence base of people’s needs and expectations so that, together, we can help inform sustainable patient-centred services.

A PDF version of The People’s Voice, can be downloaded at

Patient and Client Council

1st Floor, Ormeau Baths

18 Ormeau Avenue, Belfast, BT2 8HS

Tel: 0800 917 0222


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