Make your NHS engagement count – part two, public meetings
When organisations talk about the need to engage with people, public meetings are often in the mix. But there are pros and cons to such events.
Public engagement events are open to anyone who wishes to attend. There are pluses to holding these, as long as they’re managed well and the right people from the organisations involved are there to present and answer questions.
Public events demonstrate transparency, a willingness to listen and can help to set out the facts – dispelling myths and false rumours in the process.
There’s also the opportunity to involve key partners. Many NHS organisations have joined forces with their local Healthwatch to share the hosting of public meetings.
However, public meetings should be approached with a degree of caution, particularly if this is the first time you’ve engaged with people in an area for a while.
If you’re regularly talking to the local population about NHS services, you’ll be aware of the ‘mood’ of the area and the issues people are likely to have about what is on offer.
If you haven’t, you need to be prepared to handle anything which surfaces. Tempers can become frayed. If one person or issue dominates the discussion, no-one is going to leave the event feeling positive about the future of healthcare in their area.
To get the most out of a public event:
- Make sure it’s well-structured, with clear outcomes
- Choose a venue and time of day which is convenient for people
- Ensure people attending know their views are valued and will be used to inform plans
- Give everyone a chance to have their say
- Record who attends and their contact details (if they want to provide them)
- Record everything discussed and include it in a report to inform decision-making
- Allow people to put forward alternative suggestions to those proposed
- Provide feedback after the event
Many organisations see public meetings as an essential way of engaging the public on issues, changes and challenges. With the sort of proper planning and management which we at Arch can offer, they can be a valuable way to get insight and feedback.
However, if you want to engage with the people that these changes will affect the most, there are alternatives… as we’ll discuss in our next blog. Watch this space!