The ‘People’s Board’ – new beginnings.

A perspective from Lay Member, Dr Max McLean, Bradford City Clinical Commissioning Group.

Early in 2013, just as the new Clinical Commissioning Groups were being set up, I remember reading a Kings Fund article about public engagement. These were heady days, over 200 brand new manageable organisations, replacing the old tired Primary Care Trusts and bringing in a fresh perspective to planning and buying healthcare for our local populations.

The enthusiasm had spread among staff, new commissioning teams were forming, and to their absolute credit, ‘outsiders’ like me were being welcomed into the fold to bring lay challenge and different ideas for the benefit of our population.
Anyway, the article – ‘Patient reference groups and set piece consultations are not up to the job’ it said. What’s needed is a local ‘civil assembly’, it continued, to act as a sounding board. I was hooked. A ‘sounding board’, I thought, – that means early consultation, running ideas openly past a group of interested local people with authentic experience of how healthcare services work. Sharing the ideas when they really are just thoughts, and not ready-made pathways. Asking for feedback, amending the ideas.
I remained hooked and started sharing the idea. Civil assembly became ‘citizens assembly’. CCG staff embraced it. Senior managers called for it to happen. A few dedicated souls wrote it up, got the support required and began to recruit members of our newest team.
And here we are, with the most wonderful, diverse, enthusiastic, inquisitive collection of Bradford’s citizens one could ever wish for. Originally sixteen people, the name and terms of reference were agreed by the members themselves – the ‘People’s Board’ was born.
CCG colleagues now queue up to run ideas past the People’s Board. Plans and pathways have been shaped for the better due to the citizen’s contributions, connections and knowledge of Bradford’s communities. We are a fundamental part of the CCGs’ daily business and crucial to its ongoing success.
By the way, back to that article – it also said we should involve citizens in our performance monitoring. Commissioners should work with the People’s Board to explain areas of high and low performance against expectations. Here’s to our next stage of progress in transparency and openness!

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