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Power to the People: Why consultation is key for improved patient outcomes

Meningitis Research Foundation has been working with Say Communications to help boost our public consultation on a Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis. But with over 100 experts providing detailed information on the draft roadmap, why is a public consultation so vital for patient outcomes?

Meningitis Research Foundation has been working with Say Communications to help boost our public consultation on a Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis. But with over 100 experts providing detailed information on the draft roadmap, why is a public consultation so vital for patient outcomes?

It is our view that involving patients and the public at the start of any new health initiative can bring about a range of benefits:

Benefits for the health initiative

While the public respect expert decisions, many want to be consulted about their health. An Ipsos MORI poll for the King’s Fund found that while nearly a third of people said that decisions about treatments and services should be made solely by qualified health professionals, the majority (56 per cent) said that the public should be consulted first, with the final decisions being taken by someone qualified.  Around 14 per cent said the public should be much more actively involved.

With such an appetite for involvement, failing to consult could result in a public and patient group that do not trust a service or feel that their voice has not been heard. Additionally, by involving people from the start, organisations can build relationships with powerful public advocates to help bring about change and have an impact. Healthwatch, an independent national champion for people who use health and social care services, noted in their annual report that their work gathering the views of 341,000 people over the course of a year had fed into service improvement nationally and demonstrated the impact that a strong public voice can have.

Benefits to the patient

There is also a range of evidence showing that public involvement in health initiatives can improve health outcomes. Services tend to be better designed and easier to access when patients or the public have been involved and those who engage are more likely to take a more active role in their own health if they have been involved from the outset.

A selection of NICE reviews published in 2015 showed the wide-reaching positive impact that public engagement with health can have, including:

  • Improved health behaviours
  • Improved clinical measures
  • Higher health/social status
  • Self-efficacy and patients believing they can reach their goals
  • Improved knowledge or attitudes

Effective and efficient

In a 2014 paper published in Health Affairs, researchers examined four case studies which highlighted how patient engagement has the potential to improve health outcomes while reducing costs. The authors examined a mental health community in the United Kingdom; a screening program in the United Arab Emirates; a World Health Organization checklist for new mothers; and a hospital-based patient engagement initiative in the United States. The conclusion showed that a greater level of engagement from patients, families, providers, systems and policy makers could bring about more effective and appropriate healthcare using fewer resources.

Our roadmap

When it comes to developing a Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis, Meningitis Research Foundation is using the public consultation to gather vital views and generate new advocates that will help us to take action in the coming years. The evidence shows that public consultation isn’t just a good thing to do, it is essential to get the best results.

To learn more about Meningitis Research Foundation’s Roadmap to Defeat Meningitis, please visit: https://www.meningitis.org/our-strategy/what-we-do/action-and-support/meningitis-2030

Rob Dawson is Director of Communications, Advocacy and Support at Meningitis Research Foundation UK.

5th August 2019

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