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Public Consultation And Engagement In The NHS

Public Consultation

The NHS service to patients, communities and the general public is subject to critical observation by the public. The 2012 Health and Social Care Act led to the establishment of NHS organisations like the Clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to systematically deliver NHS services in England. The CCG is expected to encourage public participation in the decision-making process about services that will be rendered to them.

A better understanding of the health needs of the public will enable a healthcare personnel to give adequate attention to people who utilize, require or desire NHS services. Effective, innovative and efficient techniques for developing or delivering services could be established through public participation. Although getting public opinion could take time the results when properly done could help improve health outcomes and patient experience, patient safety and also promote healthy living for the public. A reduction in health inequalities and an improvement in service delivery for communities can be achieved by the CCGs and NHS England through adequate use of resources and considering the needs of people with the worst health outcomes.

Public consultation is beneficial to both the NHS and the general public as it encourages the appropriate use of a service and gives the people involved a good understanding of the service. It helps improve the confidence and skills of participants by encouraging the public to take charge of their own health and care. Consultations are to be carried out by NHS commissioners and not providers in the instance of service variations and significant development which is the duty of the NHS. New service variations or significant development ideas by these providers are taken to the NHS commissioners in the initial phase to enable commissioners to carry out consultations in compliance with the standard requirement. When making adjustments to the NHS healthcare provision, providers and commissioners are required by law to carry the public along through consultations. Failure to comply with the public consultation requirement could have devastating consequences. A judicial review can be brought about by providers, individual users of a service or groups of service users who are critically affected by a service change. NHS organisations should not make these decisions alone even if they feel it is the best option.

Public consultations could take many different forms. The NHS organisation conducting the consultation selects which procedures that gives room to the public to respond and ensures that their feedback is considered in the policy development. These consultations could be in the form of sharing information on local media, poster campaigns in NHS buildings or public meetings. There has been focus groups and a string of external and internal workshops held by the NHS England to ensure the involvement of stakeholders in creating policies. This helps to address issues relevant to the policymaking process. How elaborate public consultations are will depend on the nature of the intended service change and the number of people that will be affected by the change.

Public involvement may be skipped for temporary or insignificant changes in community health services schemes or the method hospitals operate. However, it is proper to involve the public on major adjustments in the provision of local health services. Consultations are expected to be carried out even when there are little clinical concerns. Public response through written consultation feedbacks and other consultation events are appreciated by the NHS England. 

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