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Building relationships for co-production

#CoProWeek 2021

As the Head of People Participation, I have the privilege to support and witness how services and clinicians are working in partnership with patients, people, and communities on co-production projects. Although the pandemic has presented many challenges for services to work on co-production projects, for those that have progressed, I have seen the importance of these relationships between clinicians and patients/people.

Where there was an already established relationship between people and the services/clinicians, they have been able to adapt and find ways to work together virtually in order to continue to make improvements. Co-production values are based on the principles of equality, diversity, accessibility, and reciprocity. With this in mind, the pre-existing working relationships provided a foundation of understanding that enabled those involved to work through the rough and smooth, based on knowledge that those involved had already shown commitment to making a difference.

These relationships don’t happen overnight; it’s a gradual process of building connections and understanding to enable clinicians and community members to recognise the demands and capabilities within services, and where improvements can be achieved. It's important to note that this isn't always an easy process, and requires a lot of communication and consideration from all involved, but the reward of co-production greatly outweighs the challenges, leading to better outcomes, better patient experience and better care.

In Solent we see these relationships in our Integrated Learning Disabilities service, Portsmouth. The service involves people in the delivery of training, recruitment and improving service environments for people with learning disabilities. Unfortunately, lockdown restrictions prevented the normal face-to-face interactions, but they were about to connect frequently via telephone and Zoom calls. Jo Ball, Occupational Therapist for the Learning Disability service, found:

“The regular contact was so important for the ongoing commitment, as well as a sense of remaining involved and being part of something. It meant so much for the people involved in our service user engagement work and it was incredibly valuable to staff during the hardest of times of the pandemic”.

Additionally, our Child and Family Therapy co-production work with Portsmouth Parent Voice, held weekly meetings on Zoom. Those involved were able to shaped information, escalated concerns and help solve problems. Children's Occupational Therapist, Johanna Johnson, said:

“The co-production group gave us much needed guidance on how best to communicate sometimes difficult messages during the pandemic, and our response locally was better because of this”.

Co-production relationships will always need reviewing and adjusting, and should never be thought of as "done" as there are always ways to improve. What's important to remember when it comes to co-production is that the relationships between those involved is vital. Putting people at the heart of co-production and ensuring patients and community members are supported and listened to, is the only way co-production can work.

If you'd like to find out more about co-production or working with Solent teams to improve our services, please email: involvement@solent.nhs.uk

About the author

I am a Patient and Community Engagement Manager for the Academy of Research and Improvement.

I have worked for the NHS for 20 years and qualified as a physiotherapist in 2007 from University of Southampton. I have worked across community services and specialised in the field of neurology. In 2015 I began a three year Trainee Consultant Practitioner in Neurological Rehabilitation secondment through Health Education England - Wessex. This programme has developed knowledge, skills and confidence in the areas of clinical expertise, leadership, service improvement and education. My clinical special interest is in self-management and patient activation and how services support people to achieve this. I am currently undergoing an MSc and my dissertation is about understanding the factors which support and hinder patient self-management. I am also regional chair for Wessex ACPIN (www.acpin.net)

I have always had a passion for quality improvement and have led projects on improving positioning of the stroke arm; specialist Parkinson nurse demand and capacity and understanding the benefit of vocational rehabilitation through co-production. This has led to awards and recognition for my improvement projects.

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