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Public unaware of how to contribute input for health and social care – report

There is a keen appetite within the general public to engage in the design and change of health and social care services (Peter Byrne/PA)
There is a keen appetite within the general public to engage in the design and change of health and social care services (Peter Byrne/PA)

Members of the public want to get involved in decisions over health and care services, but are unaware of how to contribute, a new survey has found.

A report published on Wednesday by Healthcare Improvement Scotland found that while people are keen to get involved in designing and changing Scotland’s health and social care, more action is required to raise awareness on how that can happen.

The Citizens’ Panel survey was conducted between January and April this year, and was commissioned by the Scottish Government to inform its review on community engagement and participation guidance.

It found that of the 507 responses received, just 23% were aware that they had the right to be involved in the design and delivery of new health or social care services.

Some 62% said they did not know about this, and the remainder said they were unsure.

Only 11% of the respondents had been asked to give feedback or opinions on local health or social care in the past.

Of those who had done so, 45% said their experience was positive, and cited the ability to improve local services (65%), providing feedback that could lead to change (56%) and having a say on issues that mattered to them (45%) as the main benefits.

The majority of people who said they had a negative experience highlighted not knowing the impact of their input as the main reason for dissatisfaction.

Claire Curtis, acting head of engagement programmes at Healthcare Improvement Scotland, said: “Our survey shows that there is a strong appetite within the public to have their say in how health and care services are designed and delivered.

“But more needs to be done by NHS boards and local authorities to let the public know how they can engage, and crucially, make it clear the vital impact their voice can have on making health and care services more effective.

“Equally, it is important that community engagement isn’t tokenistic and that feedback is listened to and improvements are made accordingly.

“As we come out of the emergency measures placed on the NHS during the pandemic we will continue working with our colleagues in Scottish Government and across NHS Scotland to improve community engagement and develop our services.”

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said the report “provides valuable insight into experiences of public engagement”.

He said: “The findings will inform our current review of Planning with People – Community Engagement and Participation Guidance for Health and Social Care.

“This guidance supports NHS boards, local authorities and integrated joint boards to use an equality and human rights-based approach, emphasising what matters most to people and ensures that health and social care providers are supported in involving and listening to their communities.”