This week I attended the CCG’s Annual General Meeting. It was set up in a ‘market stall’ fashion that gave great opportunity for the public to talk to the staff in a relaxed manner that could prompt lots of discussion. They could also more formally question the commissioners in a Q and A session as well as hearing the Chief Finance Officer discuss the previous year.
This seemed an excellent opportunity for the public to ask some difficult questions and get some very honest answers! So I was a little surprised at the turnout, expecting many more people to be there. But then I thought about whether I would be interested in attending before I started shadowing Dr Jonathan Griffiths in the CCG, and I came to the conclusion that no, I wouldn’t be. Before this placement I knew little to nothing about how the CCG worked, the decisions it makes or the power it had; and that’s after three years of medical school.
Do we as a public actually hold as much interest in the NHS as we think?
This BBC article was one of many published on August 26th discussing some draft sustainability and transformation plans proposing ward closures and changes to GP and A&E care. It was one of the top new stories of the day and attracted a lot of attention. Therefore the public are indeed interested. Is the general population unaware of the connection between the CCGs and these plans, and how many commissioners are helping form these ideas?
In a way this goes slightly against one of my previous blogs, which discussed how involving the public in decisions would aid in the outcome. I still agree that this is the case, but do society want to be involved? Are the majority of people happier to simply leave the decisions to the responsible parties, rather than be part of the solution? I would hope that this is not the case, and simply the NHS, as a whole needs to do more to communicate and engage with the public.
Dr Jonathan has recently been quoted in the Winsford Guardian discussing whether GP’s should continue to prescribe drugs like paracetamol, when they can be bought over the counter at no cost to the NHS. This article engaged well with the public, with three patients the next week mentioning to him that they would like paracetamol removed from their script. This is a good example of the public engaging and taking personal responsibility for saving the NHS money. They became aware of a problem and how they could personally solve it.
Perhaps the problem with the bigger issues for the public is that they don’t feel they are in a position to help. They are very happy to take responsibility of their own person, but don’t know how their opinion can aid in the system. I wonder if more articles were written in local papers about local healthcare plans, would more of the public become engaged? If people realised that local organisations are making decisions for the local patch, would they feel more empowered to help?
Should empowering local people to give their opinions on the local delivery of health, be an important goal for the NHS?
(Post-Script: As the articles above mention, Sustainability and Transformation Plans will be published at the end of October; will there be a huge public outcry? Will people be angry? Where were these people at events like this AGM where their opinion could be noted? Are people happier to simply complain once a solution has been made locally, instead of helping mould that solution?
There are lots of questions I’m asking because I don’t know the answers. If education and communication was improved, I don’t know if people would be become more involved. I would like to think so, but I am not certain.
Educating the public is paramount to the future of the NHS. Difficult plans like these have to be implemented because of government policy, which is in part chosen by the public in general elections.)
This blog has been written by Ben Tyler, 4th Year Medical Student at Sheffield University
Follow Ben on Twitter @BenjaTyler