Hello, I’m Tracey - and alongside my four-year-old son Theo, we have been accessing services and support from Solent Speech and Language team. In 2022, I was invited to join a Quality Improvement project, offering a parent’s voice and perspective on the service and our journey through it. It’s been a challenging and enriching experience - helping me to learn more about key service challenges and be part of the team that begins to develop solutions that will help other parents and families to have a smoother journey in future.
It's all part of a growing commitment within the Trust to foster the practice of co-production - helping clinicians and their teams to consider ways to meaningfully engage with service users to drive positive change and improvement. And this year, the Academy plans to supercharge training and support available to all services to increase knowledge, confidence, and skills in co-producing change.
So, what is co-production?
It’s likely that you’re already involving service users at some level in the design, delivery, or evaluation of your services. Co-production expands on service user engagement - and aims to achieve more than just consulting or informing people about decisions. It focuses instead on including and enabling meaningful involvement. This can be by sharing power to decide how money is spent, or how services are commissioned; or an equal voice in designing a service - what is available, where, and how. In practice, it involves service users working together from the start to the end of any project that affects them.
Why is co-production important?
Beyond the statutory requirement for co-production outlined in The Care Act 2014, and more recent statutory guidance on ‘Working in Partnership with People and Communities’ there is a growing body of evidence that co-production can help to address key service challenges effectively. Co-production can help to build understanding of your community’s needs, experiences, ideas and aspirations for health and care; foster and build positive relationships based on trust, especially with marginalised groups and those affected by health inequalities; empower people and communities and centre the needs and experiences of service users in decision-making. It can also help to make services more relevant, effective, affordable, and sustainable, helping to reduce costs and improve outcomes.
At a personal level, and as a participant in our co-production project, I felt heard and valued. By sharing my experience as a parent accessing the service, I was able to offer a fresh and important perspectives on my journey through the service, which helped to shape focus areas for improvement. I also felt a sense of belonging to the team and the Trust - and a greater sense of ownership for the solutions being developed.
How do you know it’s co-production?
This is an important question which, in my opinion, goes to the heart of the matter. For me, co-production is about a willingness to share power, alongside a deeply held respect for the knowledge, skills and assets of the service users and communities you support. It recognises that everyone who takes part has equal importance - and brings skills, abilities and time which must be recognised. It focuses on diverse voices, ensuring that everyone with a stake in the service has a voice in producing it - and works hard to be accessible, enabling everyone to fully take part in a way that works for them. Finally, it focuses on reciprocity - acknowledging that everyone should get something out of taking part, including payment where relevant.
Want to learn more and have support?
If you’d like to dive into co-production and learn more about harnessing the knowledge, skills, and experience of service users in developing solutions to your challenges, then join the Academy’s co-production training, launching in April 2023.