By Simon Stockton and Natasha Burberry
Recently the CEO of a large health care provider shared a story with me which summarised why coproduction matters so well it almost felt like a ready made urban legend.
The story went something like this… A care professional is talking with a local resident describing how a smoking cessation service is aiming to help address health inequalities and raise the life expectancy of men in the area above 65 and the man, a heavy smoker, says in response ‘why would I want to live any longer than that?’
It’s a pointed rebuttal to a well intentioned offer and it raises the question – how well do we really involve people in defining the problem we are trying to solve and in designing the approaches we use to improve people’s wellbeing.
Taking Coproduction seriously enables us to focus on building a deeper understanding of what really matters to people and communities and to use that understanding to build services collaboratively as well as strengthening the capacity of people and communities to help themselves.
That may feel like a no-brainer but in the harsh financial climate which continues to plague social care it can be challenging for the leaders of Care systems to invest in Co-Production.
Exploring how best to engage people takes time and effort and isn’t always a smooth ride but some areas, Eastern England being one, are acknowledging that this just makes the challenge all the more critical. After all, if we’re not using resources to address what matters most to local people and communities how can we really say resources are being used effectively?
Over the last few years Directors across the East of England have been developing a programme to acknowledge the importance of coproduction. Directors across the region have signed up to the Count Me In pledgecommitting themselves publicly to supporting and investing in coproduction. Alongside that the Count Me In Network which produced the pledge has developed a simple RAG rated self assessment for people involved in coproduction activities to reflect on their experience and whether it felt meaningful and productive.
This month sees that work take another significant step forward in its ambitions. The East of England is now aiming to become a centre of excellence for coproduction and is holding a series of events starting on 23rd September to bring together system leaders and people involved in coproduction to design an improvement programme to fulfil those ambitions.
The network itself has also grown and is now supported by NHSEngland and MacIntyre Charity extending its reach to the health and provider sectors. In the context of the Long Term Plan and the move to Universal Personalised Care this makes significant sense.
Our hope now is to develop a cross sector support offer which can nurture local coproduction activities across the region, share what works and test out new ways of working in ways that feel safe and benefit everyone involved. How we do that is an open question and one we will explore together but a core part of the programme over the next year will be focussed on building capacity for people to engage in coproduction and in testing approaches which we think are scaleable.
If you’re interested in getting involved in this work, sharing your stories of coproduction with us or simply hearing what happens next you can get in touch with us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com