Headlines: September 15th, 2005

An extensive consultation exercise has begun to give people across England a chance to let the Government know what they want from health and community services in the future. It is the first exercise of its kind and will involve a series of public events as well as an online questionnaire.”Your Health, Your Care, Your Say” began with a public meeting in Gateshead. Similar meetings will take place in Leicester, London and Plymouth and local events will be run across the country by councils, the NHS and voluntary organisations. The 8-week consultation will culminate in a Citizens’ Day in Birmingham at the end of October.

The Government expects thousands of people and hundreds of organisations to take part in the consultation and to give their views on specific questions about what they want from community health and social care services in their everyday lives. The three questions those taking part are to be asked are, how can people look after themselves and how they can be helped to do so; when you and your family need help and support, how, when, where and from whom do you want to get it and how can we help you get the right services, when you need them, and ensure your care and support is properly coordinated?

In addition, participants will be asked to debate other topics and ideas, including what can be done to help older people remain independent and stay in their own homes, how to tackle the root causes of ill-health and whether such investment would save the NHS money in the long run.

The Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt, said people wanted a greater say in decisions about services that affected their lives. “That is why we are using this new approach of democratic engagement to develop new policy. In addition to the regional events, local organisations, such as local authorities, involved in providing services will consult with patients, users, carers, the public and staff through their own events. I am also extending the reach of this engagement further with an online questionnaire that I would like to see as many people as possible submit.”

Opinion Leader Research will run the events in Leicester on September 22nd, London on the 29th and Plymouth on October 10th. The online questionnaire is available from http://www.nhs.uk/yoursay  and the ideas from the public sessions will feed into a ‘Citizens’ Day’ for 1,000 participants in Birmingham October 29th.