What influence can you have by responding to consultations?
Before any new service is introduced or changes to existing services are made, health and social care organisations in Birmingham have to consult service users and the public. When consultations are publicised, Healthwatch Birmingham will place some of them on our website for the public to get involved.
Making your views known
A consulting organisation has to take into account any considerable issues that are raised by service users and the public during consultations. This is where service users and the public contribute your lived experiences of the services being considered for change. You have feedback or insight about yours and your family’s experiences about accessing the service. You can tell the organisation whether proposals are acceptable, realistic and how they will impact you. Below we have outlined the different stages a consultation takes and the role service users and the public play.
Stages of a consultation
Establishing the need for change
This stage is where the consulting organisation looks at all the evidence to determine the need for change. The organisation ensures that all stakeholders understand the reasons for change. An initial impact assessment (including an equality and health inequalities analysis) is carried out to identify people and groups within communities that will be most affected.
The consulting organisation considers all the options available, their likely impact, and how to reduce impact. Full public involvement is not essential at this stage, however the consulting organisation has to involve a proportionate section of those who will be affected by the proposals. Together (the consulting organisation and the section of the public engaged), you will develop a rationale for selecting options that will be put forward to a full consultation.
A full impact assessment (including an equality and health inequalities analysis) is carried out to identify people or groups within communities that will be most affected. This assessment should guide the consulting organisations engagement plans and ensure that they reach the communities who will be impacted by the proposals.
The wider public are presented with the selected options/option and asked for their views. The public usually have 12 weeks to respond to a consultation, although sometimes this can be shorter. Different ways are given for service users and the public to give their experiences and insight. In some cases translation services are available.
The consulting organisation communicates its findings and what decision has been taken as a result. The decision should be explained fully, with examples of how service users and the public’ feedback has informed the decision. The decision, the reasons why the decision has been taken, and the feedback received should be made publically available.
Healthwatch Birmingham, consultations and the public
Healthwatch Birmingham’s responsibilities include ensuring that patients, the public, service users and carers (PPSuC) are at the heart of service improvement in health and social care in the city of Birmingham. As part of our role we actively seek to help those who plan, buy, monitor (commissioners) and deliver services (providers), to continuously improve their Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) activities. Responding to consultations presents an opportunity for Healthwatch Birmingham to:
- Ensure that local people are the focal point of key decisions on changes to health services.
- Communicate patient feedback we have received.
- Notify organisations of concerns and issues with PPI and the impact decisions will/have on health outcomes and health inequality.
To share any questions, concerns or comments about any consultations in health and social care, contact us for free on 0800 652 5278 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips for responding
- Say if your response is confidential
- You response can either be positive or negative or both
- You do not have to answer each question asked. Concentrate on what is important to you.
- Make sure you include your experiences and insights that relate to the proposals.
- Be brief, clear and concise and remember the deadline.
Public consultations must adhere to the Gunning principles:
- Consultation must start when proposals are at a formative stage.
- Sufficient information, including a justification for changes, and equality and assessment must be provided to permit ‘intelligent consideration’.
- Adequate time must be given to involve the public, for the public to consider proposals and make an informed decision, and give feedback, and the organisation to analyse results and make a final decision.
- Must communicate to the public and other stakeholders how their responses have been taken into account and informed final decision.