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Creating a toolkit for working with the community

Why was the initiative launched?
What was done?
Tips for success
To find out more contact

Exploring ways to engage local people in the development of the North Tees Primary Care Group

Why was the initiative launched?

In North Tees there is strong history of collaboration between the Community Health Council and the Health Authority to involve patients in the development of health services. Given the success of these activities there was a lot of interest locally in exploring ways to see how this experience could support the creation of the North Tees Primary Care Group.

The essential aim was to ensure that future developments should build on previous success. The Clarence's Well-being survey which focused on a housing estate in Stockton on Tees is an example of the work undertaken. This was a collaborative venture involving all local health agencies. It was designed to help these agencies understand in detail the views of local people and create a climate within which action to respond to local needs could be tackled. Key messages from the survey - concluded in late 1997 - were a desire for health care to be delivered from the local Neighbourhood Centre and for a chemist shop on the estate.

A Clarence Community Partnership has since been established - as a legal entity - to take local developments forward. The partnership includes representatives from all the local statutory agencies as well as representatives from major local industries. A number of specific developments are being planned - but as ever these take time.

What was done?

The main focus of the work was the production of advice to the newly formed Primary Care Group about the creation of a 'patient engagement programme'. This was assembled by representatives from the Community Health Council, the Health Authority and the Primary Care Group. The programme should be designed to enable the Group to be clear about the purpose of the work and undertake it in an effective and systematic way. The conclusions from those discussions argued the key features of the programme should be clarity about a process for engaging the community, the means of demonstrating how the programme would work, a mechanism for keeping the community in touch with progress and how continuous evaluation would be managed.

To support the development of the patient engagement programme staff locally have created a 'patient engagement toolkit' . The toolkit provides advice about established methods - the 'tools of the trade' - for obtaining information from, and for delivering information to, patients. The toolkit helpfully distinguishes between method for 'involving the public' and for undertaking 'research with the public'. Each method is described briefly and assessed on the basis of advantages and disadvantages as a method for particular tasks. The toolkit stresses the need for careful assessment of the different methods and points to the merit of seeking help from other agencies if the necessary skills are not available within the organisation.

Public Engagement Toolkit
Involving the public Research with the public
Advisory groups Sampling
Citizens juries Research interviews
Consensus panels Questionnaires
Development projects Surveys
Health forums Focus groups
Health panels Critical incident techniques
Open surgeries Rapid appraisal
Patient panels Service user diaries
Special interest groups  

Following the development work in North Tees the Public Engagement Toolkit has been adopted and endorsed by the Northern and Yorkshire office of the NHS Executive.

Tips for success

To find out more contact

For information about developments in North Tees
Dr Tony Garret
Chief Officer
North Tees Community Health Council
17-18 High Street
Stockton on Tees TS18 1SP
Telephone 01642 611664
Fax 01642 611959

For information about the toolkit

Sheila Rook
Planning and Development
NHS Executive: Northern and Yorkshire
John Snow House
Durham University
Science Park
Durham DH1 3YG

The toolkit is available at:


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