Healthwatch England and the Institute collaborate to support local Healthwatch
Healthwatch England is the independent national champion for people who use health and social care services. It supports local Healthwatch to find out what people like about services, what could be improved and share these views with those with the power to make change happen.
The success of Healthwatch relies on a robust base of patient and public feedback. “Engagement is core business for Healthwatch” comments Marianne Patterson, Learning and Development Manager for Healthwatch England. “Creative approaches to engagement were the top priority in the 2019 learning survey for local Healthwatch staff and volunteers”.
The impact of COVID-19 forced local Healthwatch to quickly adopt much more online engagement than had previously been used and this led to Healthwatch England commissioning the Institute to develop a bespoke online training course, focused on online engagement techniques. Marianne explained: “We had recommendations from local Healthwatch who had already worked with tCI and knew that tCI combined in-depth legal knowledge of consultation and engagement with a track record in training and developing e-learning courses. We were already exploring some options with tCI when COVID-19 changed how Healthwatch could engage with people in their areas. Healthwatch staff then told us their biggest support needs were how to engage well with people online and how to engage with people who are digitally excluded. So, we prioritised these two topics and commissioned tCI to develop the first as a pilot”.
The project began in the summer; written by Institute Associate, Steve Inett and developed by the Institute’s Martyn Beeby. He explained: “This was a really exciting project to be involved in. Over the last two years, we’ve gained a lot of experience in the development of our own online training programme, so it was an exciting opportunity to take what we’ve learned and produce a course that will be of huge benefit to Healthwatch”.
Steve, previously the CEO of Healthwatch Kent, was the perfect candidate for writing the course and had plenty of experience to draw back on. “Healthwatch is unique in being part of the voluntary sector but having a statutory role, understanding that and their place with health and social care services and local communities meant I could get into a useful dialogue very quickly about what the training needed to be. It also meant I appreciated how different each Healthwatch is because their communities are so different, and the need for the training to deliver for all of them”.
The course was co-produced by two local Healthwatch, and they played an important part in the process. “It was incredibly important that the course was bespoke to local Healthwatch who have a unique role and that content would resonate with our staff and volunteers” said Marianne. Martyn added “This wasn’t like tCI courses I produce. It was vital that I captured the Healthwatch in-house style. It had to look and feel like their course, and this was one area where local Healthwatch input was crucial for me”.
The pandemic has had a huge impact on our lives and the way we work. Yet, it presents an excellent opportunity for many people to take advantage of online training and its benefits. “It will bring reassurance that no one size fits all, there is no magic formula, but there are lots of proven approaches that will help Healthwatch reach people in their communities while they are not able to engage with them face to face. Ultimately we hope it will help more people to have their say about health and care and engage with their local Healthwatch virtually” thinks Marianne.
In November 2020, the course launched to all 151 local Healthwatch and following it’s success, our attention switches to the next module.
Taking a moment to reflect on the first module, “It was a really positive piece of co-design” explains Steve. “It felt that we were successful in creating training that worked for the range of people working in a Local Healthwatch; paid staff, volunteers, trustees, chairs, chief executives. The training looks great and is really engaging”. Marianne added “Steve and Martyn were fantastic to work with and it felt like a genuine team effort. We’re looking forward to the next module!”.
So are we!