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Communication Strategy

"Welcome to HealthWatch Hartlepool's Communication and Engagement Proposal, detailing what it will do and how it will look."

There has been a long period of consultation about the development of Healthwatch since the original proposals were described in the Government's White Paper of 2010. It was a very positive opportunity for Hartlepool LINk to work with local people and Hartlepool Borough Council via the HealthWatch pathfinder to ensure that Healthwatch had the best possible start in April 2013.

HealthWatch Hartlepool is the independent voice on health and social care for people in Hartlepool. From April 2013 we have accepted the increased powers and responsibilities for the 'public voice'. These include responsibility for information giving, working collaboratively with ICA as the advocacy service for people making complaints about the NHS and having a seat on both the new Health & Wellbeing Board and the Hartlepool locality group of the NHS Stockton and Hartlepool Clinical Commissioning Group. The Health & Wellbeing Board will coordinate improvements in health and care for people in Hartlepool by bringing together NHS and Local Authority planners and purchasers of services who will take on board the views of the local population in their decisions. Healthwatch now has a key role in ensuring this.

HealthWatch Hartlepool will continue to promote the need for effective public engagement at every stage and at every level. This proposal is another opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to ensuring that patient and public engagement is embedded in all new NHS and social care structures. Local people should have a say in what they want Healthwatch to do for them and what is important to them. They should feel a sense of ownership and feel part of this fundamental shift in public involvement

However, equally important is that engagement and involvement is not only done when required for statutory purposes. It must be a continuous dialogue with the people of Hartlepool and fundamental to all service commissioning and redesign. It is a time to embrace and recognise the benefits of engaging and consulting with everyone who uses services to drive change and seek positive outcomes.

The legislation states that all public services have a duty to consult and involve local people. They should promote ways in which everyone can get involved in decisions being made, then act on the findings and continue the dialogue, stating what has been done as a result and why.

Whilst we have been undertaking this stage of engagement, HealthWatch Hartlepool has also continued with its current valuable work in influencing change, and partnership working with all key stakeholders and partners who are also being challenged by the demands of this transitional period. HealthWatch Hartlepool intends to leave a sound legacy in promoting partnership working as well as providing leadership for collective responsibility, intelligently recognising, with empathy and understanding, the lives that the people of Hartlepool live. By doing this it is apparent that our early decision to forge vital relationships and the commitment to working together has proved to strengthen the foundation further and this will continue to develop through the continued work of Healthwatch Hartlepool.

This proposal should be adopted as a tool for the future engagement strategy for HealthWatch Hartlepool. We will ensure that Healthwatch develops strong partnerships to promote improvements in health and social care and therefore better outcomes for local people. This is an embryonic proposal and should evolve as we develop. It will, however, be the catalyst for continuous effective engagement on health and social care in Hartlepool. Every resident of Hartlepool should have an opportunity to 'have their say' on what services they need, how services will be delivered and who will deliver them. If local people are involved at all levels in decisions being made then they will feel a sense of ownership and also be less likely to accept poor quality services or decisions they disagree with.

"To be empowered you need to feel empowered. To feel empowered you need the information and mechanisms in place to be involved."


Fundamental to the NHS reforms is the concept of 'No decision about me, without me'. This is not just a concept which relates to individual clinical decisions, but needs to be taken as a starting point for much wider and more meaningful public engagement in the planning, provision and evaluation of health and social care services. For the purpose of this proposal HealthWatch Hartlepool ensures that this information is credible and coherent for all stakeholder audiences. Definition of words can be confusing when working with a diverse audience and this has the potential to cause communication barriers.

Who are stakeholders?

Stakeholders are individuals or organisations that have a direct interest in a service being commissioned or provided; also individuals with a direct involvement, interest and investment in health and social care services for everyone.

What does 'communication' mean?

By nature, communication is a two-way process where a connection is made. Communicating coherent information to all stakeholders will help everyone to make informed decisions. Communicating involves listening which is fundamental to the process and to decisions being made. It is also crucial that HealthWatch Hartlepool is seen to be credible, ethical and cohesive independent organisations.

What does 'engagement' mean?

Engagement is a term used to describe a two-way communication between HealthWatch Hartlepool and the residents of Hartlepool. This includes patients, carers and all members of the public. The aim is to keep them informed and also have an effective mechanism to seek their views, opinions and needs, and then communicate the information to the key decision makers in the health and social care infrastructure. Engaging with the people of Hartlepool helps HealthWatch influence decisions being made through anecdotal evidence from people, with the crucial outcome being patients and public being at the heart of the decision making process for health and social care services.
What does 'commissioning' mean?

Commissioning is a way of getting the best value and health outcomes for all stakeholders by identifying and understanding their needs. This involves buying the best possible health and social care services that deliver best outcomes with the resources available.


Strong consumer voice – Healthwatch Hartlepool will be the strong local consumer voice on views and experiences of health and social care to influence better health outcomes.

Values and behaviours – HealthWatch Hartlepool will aim to be respected, authoritative, influential, credible and very visible within the communities it represents.

Strong Local Voice - HealthWatch Hartlepool will be the independent, effective, trusted voice of local people on health & social care.

Unique Specialist Role -  HealthWatch will be recognised as having the people's voice and authority on health and adult social care, working at the interface between people who plan and pay for services, people who provide them, practitioners and the public.

HealthWatch will be a source of information about people's experiences, recognised for specialist expertise in collaborative working and delivering communication and engagement programmes that impact on the services people use, improvements and outcomes.

Bringing People Together - HealthWatch will forge enduring alliances with those who plan, purchase, provide and use local services to improve outcomes through influencing and signposting, joining up organisations and outcomes.

Working Framework - HealthWatch will value the diversity of things that contribute to people feeling happy ad healthy, and will seek to influence improvements in the factors that influence people's choice of service and which help them have a good experience of the services they use.

HealthWatch will hold the 'big picture' as well as the detail of the whole health and care journey locally when commenting on service changes; enforcing national guidelines and standards linked to local expectations of good services identified by patients, carers and the public; and will campaign for local service improvements and better services where there are gaps within and between health and social care. (See work programme)

Governance - HealthWatch will be independent, represent local people and have clear governance to ensure it is open, transparent, inclusive and joined-up. (See Governance Framework)

Membership - The HealthWatch membership will primarily include people who use services, including carers.

Membership will also include representatives from organisations who provide services, voluntary & community groups and those who buy services.

Members will work collaboratively to support one another to deliver better outcomes.

Working With Others - Specialists – HealthWatch will have access to a wider pool of skilled, knowledgeable members or associates, with a range of specialisms.

Other representative – HealthWatch will strengthen its links with other third sector organisations that represent people, communities and special interest or needs.

Professionals and practitioners – HealthWatch will provide information about Healthwatch for professionals and practitioners working locally, building relationships and encouraging their involvement in its work.

Health & Wellbeing Board – HealthWatch will provide a co-ordinated communication route to and from the Council's Health & Wellbeing Board.

Clinical Commissioning Group (Hartlepool Locality Board) – HealthWatch will provide a coordinated communication route to and from the locality board.

Communication & Engagement - Letting people know about HealthWatch – HealthWatch will promote itself through short, simple messages about what it does, how it works, how it can be reached and how it is influencing change and improvements.

How it will communicate with people – HealthWatch will use inclusive language, be accessible and provide information in ways that break down barriers.

Reaching people using different media – HealthWatch will use a variety of media to reach, inform and engage the greatest number and diversity of local people.

Target groups – HealthWatch will target information and services for younger people and older people in particular and will find ways to reach or be reached by those who are seldom heard.

People's involvement – HealthWatch will have evidence of the benefit of engagement e.g. better care, better outcomes.

Collaborative working, communication & engagement skills – HealthWatch will have the specialist skills to work with people, individually and in groups, to find out what is happening locally, as well as influencing and negotiating skills to work with commissioners, providers and key partners.

HealthWatch Hartlepool will have a strong role on influencing: helping to shape the planning of local health and adult social care services to improve outcomes.

Working Relationships - HealthWatch will have a good working relationship, underpinned by protocols, with key players and partners so they can forge stronger alliances to deliver better services, improvements and outcomes.

Communication & Engagement - Priorities – HealthWatch will identify and act on local priorities identified by the public

Receiving and sharing information – HealthWatch will hold a range of information for commissioners, providers, practitioners and the public about what people who use services are experiencing, whether this is about general experiences, what they would like to happen or one-off good/bad events.

Feedback – HealthWatch will give people feedback about the way their experiences and involvement have brought about changes and/or improved services and outcomes in the longer term.

Data Protection - HealthWatch will have robust data protection systems so that appropriate information can be kept and made available to influence changes and improvements.

Recognising and Promoting - Excellence HealthWatch will give recognition to good local services and successes.

Healthwatch Hartlepool will have a strong role in signposting: helping people access and make choices about services and care.

Working Framework - HealthWatch will be a source of information, a focal point, on what is available and working well e.g. local services, access, contacts and choices; and where improvements are needed or planned including where there are gaps. Examples of such may be Health & Social care upon hospital discharge or the provision of integrated services and opportunities for people living with life limiting or long term conditions.

Communication & Engagement - Letting people know what is available – HealthWatch will ensure good information is provided to people who access local health and adult social care services, as well as the wider community of 'friends, family and carers' who are a key source of information and support.

Reaching people through other organisations – HealthWatch will forge strong links with GP practices, the Council (social services, information points, libraries etc.) and the third sector and independent sectors to share information on local health & social care services and HealthWatch.

Reaching people in their communities – HealthWatch will use a variety of existing places that people visit e.g. libraries, schools, health establishments etc.

HealthWatch shall also utilise a range of media to reach existing or potential users of Health & Social care services.

Key principles:

In all of our Communication & Engagement work we must make information accessible, public events accessible and public involvement accessible:

1) Engagement needs to be an integral part of HealthWatch Hartlepool and woven into the fabric of the organisation.
2) There shall be differing levels of engagement appropriate to the situations presented to HealthWatch.
3) Public engagement is every member's responsibility.
4) HealthWatch Hartlepool has a responsibility to ensure effective public engagement is embedded within the day to day business of the organisation and is taking place through the commissioning and delivery of services.
5) Service users and the wider public nee to feel that engagement has been meaningful.
6) Engagement should be based on evidence.
7) The success of engagement activity should be rigorously evaluated and involve members of the communities we represent.

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