From the introduction:
The Your Health, Your Care, Your Say initiative (YHYCYS) for the Department of Health created one of the largest and most ambitious public engagement exercises ever mounted in the UK. The aims were complex and ambitious: to ensure that the public (especially the ‘seldom heard’) were actively involved in deliberative debates on contentious issues including ‘trading off’ public investment in different types of health and social care services, alongside creating a high public profile to encourage wide public involvement (including through open access questionnaires) and professional stakeholder involvement.
Over 41,000 responses were received through the various methods used over the course of the three months that the main work took place (September to December 2005), with 1,240 people attending deliberative events in Gateshead, Leicester, London, Plymouth and Birmingham. The process also included a unique ‘report back’ event in London in March 2006 (after the publication of the White Paper in January 2006). At this event, 110 people who had been at previous deliberative events heard the Secretary of State for Health, alongside two Ministers from health and social care, report back to them on what had been taken forward from the YHYCYS exercise into the White Paper, and asking for feedback on the participants’ satisfaction with what had been done with their input.
This report summarises the results of an evaluation study which examines the whole process but which focuses on the ‘listening exercise’ – the local, regional and national deliberative events that enabled members of the public to discuss a range of topics (based on information provided and a carefully structured process). The evaluation study aimed to come to conclusions about the extent to which the methodology chosen and the delivery of YHYCYS met the objectives set, and draw out learning for future public engagement activity.
The research shows that the exercise was enormously popular with those involved, with a range of benefits to the policy process as well as to the participants themselves. It also finds that the costs of the exercise were seen as widely acceptable to participants and, in many cases, seen as money well spent– in spite of an equally wide recognition that resources for health and social care are finite.
This report also identifies the elements of the process that worked particularly well (such as the deliberative process), and some areas where the process could have worked better and where participants had particular concerns – mainly around levels of actual influence, a sense that some of the topics for discussion and questions for polling were ‘leading’ (not a widespread concern but felt strongly by some), and a concern that what has been published in the White Paper is actually delivered. That remains the primary question for most participants: they clearly enjoyed the process enormously and were delighted with the opportunity to participate, but their judgement of the ultimate value of the exercise will depend on what improvements are made to health and social care services locally and nationally as a result.
This report is necessarily only a brief overview of the YHYCYS initiative, and reports only on the main findings of a relatively detailed evaluation study of the deliberative processes which has produced a rich body of evidence. Further guidance to Government and other bodies based on these findings is planned and will be published in the coming months.