No decision without talking to those who matter most
Patients must be to the forefront in any proposed changes to health and social care services, says Maeve Hully
As chief executive of the Patient and Client Council, I broadly welcome the publication of Transforming Your Care - A Review of Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland. People have been telling us for some time about the need for change in health and social care.
The next few months will see unprecedented change in health and social care. This requires strong leadership and a commitment to resources.
The resources question will not be easy to answer, but there is a real opportunity for us to be innovative and find a different way to do things.
Often, some of the most effective changes made are those where staff, patients, service users and carers work together. They do not necessarily require a great deal of extra money.
The Patient and Client Council is calling for the views of patients, service users, carers and communities to be listened to and for people to be involved in the implementation of any changes to health and social care services in Northern Ireland. Our recent report, The People's Priorities, shows that people really value their health and social care services and appreciate improvements which have been made.
However, they want better access and quality of services and they are concerned about care in the community, including care of the elderly and waiting-times for hospital care and treatment.
People have told us they want to be involved in decision-making; they want clear information and better communication. There are concerns about funding and reduction of services.
People want better support for vulnerable groups and a greater recognition of carers. People have also told us they want more education, awareness-raising and open discussion about health and social care. We hope the implementation of this review will help address the issues raised by people across Northern Ireland.
We have been working with the review team to ensure that the concerns and views of people across Northern Ireland are being considered as part of any review of services. It is important that any changes to services are properly communicated to people and that they are given clear information on when, how and where to access services.
We have recommended to the review team that key information is made available to every household in Northern Ireland.
People can only participate in discussion and decision-making if they are given information, given the opportunity to participate and are able to see how their views affect real, lasting change.
This doesn't mean that everyone can have everything they want and people understand this. What is needed is trust in the process and knowing that they are being listened to.
For anyone involved with health services, patient and public involvement are very much part of the vocabulary and have been for a long time.
The Patient and Client Council has been working with patients and the public to bring about real change to services, including mental health and cancer services.
The ongoing implementation of the review will require that the public are kept informed and involved at all levels. People need to know what the changes will mean for them.
The late Clare Rayner, past president of the Patients Association, famously said: "No decision about me without me."
The Patient and Client Council is committed to ensuring that the voice of people continues to be heard and that their views are reflected in the planning and delivery of services in Northern Ireland.