Quality Assurance in the North
The Consultation Institute has provided Advice and Guidance and independent Quality Assurance approximately 250 times since this service began. This does not mean, however, that all organisations that have undertaken a Quality Assurance programme have met the criteria to receive a best practice certificate…
The Institute often receives calls from Engagement Managers who want a critical friend to talk to about their upcoming (or sometimes contemporaneous) consultations. These sessions can cover anything from equality and transport analysis to survey design and managing Joint OSCs.
Andy Mills, one of our Associates specialising in NHS and Local Authority settings says:
“I think best practice stems from an understanding of why an organisation wishes to/needs to consult. Those that do so because they believe they must, generally means that the Institute and the client find the process challenging. Those organisations which are committed to listening and amending their plans demonstrating they may not have all the information/answers, usually find the QA process helpful.”
Engagement professionals are usually aware of consultation law and good practice; however, they may not be confident that the advice they are providing to their Programme Boards is sound. Andy continues “this may of course challenge Board timescales but as we know, good consultation leads to better decisions.” In this sense, the onus is on the organisation’s engagement and management teams, to be willing to adapt to the ebbs and flows which take place throughout the consultation process.
Andy has provided Advice and Guidance to a large number of NHS/LA bodies and many of these have gone on to require the Institute’s Quality Assurance package.
” The commissions which I’m most pleased with are those which have involved complex changes to services, where engagement with local communities has been sound and where knowledge transfer to the client means that good practice is embedded into that organisation.”
Our work with North England Commissioning Support (NECS) is a good example of this evolving relationship, where the institute is now ‘hands-off’ but still available as critical friend.
Andy outlines some operational signs of best practice in his experience:
- Use of third parties for survey design, data capture and analysis
- Engagement of specialist providers to undertake transport analysis
- Use of public health teams to input or create Equality Analysis
- Use of multiple methods to obtain user and public feedback
- Early analysis with groups opposed to the change to enable them to influence the development of options (the Institute encourages ongoing engagement with groups individuals affected as the process moves into options appraisal)
- Use of ‘deliberative methodologies’ in addition to or even instead of public meetings
- As much information as possible in the public domain i.e. on a bespoke website/page. We should never underestimate the ability of users/the public to understand complex information
- Early engagement with local elected members….this can be particularly challenging later in the process if good relationships have not been established
- Use of transparent decision-making process….demonstrating how the consultation has impacted on consideration of the options. If possible make the decision in public