Dr Siân Rees is Director of Community Involvement and Workforce Innovation at Oxford AHSN and co-chair of the National AHSN PPI Leads Forum.
In this blog, Siân discusses the AHSN Network involvement and co-production strategy currently in development, and talks about the importance of working with patients and the public across the innovation system, giving examples of some of our work in the last year.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has reminded the health and care system of the importance of working collaboratively with patients and the public. The world, including health care consultations, rapidly moved online. This worked for many, but, inevitably not all, emphasising the importance of understanding, and acting on, both patient and staff experiences of innovation.
The continuing pandemic presents challenges, but also opportunities for us to better involve and co-produce with the public, patients, carers, and communities.
The AHSN Network involvement and co-production strategy
Involvement and co-production is already embedded in many projects across the AHSN Network. To support continued growth and improvement in these activities we are developing an involvement and co-production strategy.
Developing the strategy has been an exercise in co-production, involving all AHSNs, patients and public who work with us, and national stakeholders, including commissioners of our major programmes. To begin this process, we carried out a listening exercise, with more than 35 interviews and two online workshops. This allowed us to understand where people are at the moment, and their hopes and expectations for the future.
It has been a great privilege to hear people’s experiences of involvement and co-production from across the country. We particularly valued hearing the views of patients and the public who have been involved in our work.
Our involvement and co-production strategy will now be embedded in the ongoing, overarching strategic work of the AHSN Network. This will help ensure the centrality of the views of patients and the public in our work.
Collaborating on involvement and co-production projects in 20-21
Putting together our strategy allowed us to hear many great examples of co-production making a real difference. Below are just a few examples over the past year from across the AHSN Network.
‘Beyond lockdown’: co-producing support for care leavers
Many young people leave the care system feeling unprepared, financially insecure, struggling with their mental health and without strong support networks. This can leave them vulnerable to ongoing ill health.
NIHR Applied Research Collaboration Kent Surrey Sussex (ARC KSS) commissioned research into the impact of COVID-19 on the daily life and wellbeing of care leavers, focusing on their support needs as lockdown ends.
The research team co-produced key messages with care leavers, for them to share with other care leavers and services working with them, to help provide effective support. Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN is leading the implementation of the research findings, including distributing a toolkit of resources.
Care leavers involved in the research have joined a national forum to share the research findings and the toolkit across local authorities nationwide.
Connecting SMEs and target audiences
Before the pandemic, the Innovation Agency (the AHSN for the North West Coast) had hosted successful face-to-face events bringing together health and care SMEs and the public. This allowed innovators to showcase their ideas, interact with their potential target audience and get feedback.
To make sure that these events could continue, despite the pandemic, they became virtual. An online showcase brought together eight health and care innovators and a group of 50 University of the Third Age (u3a) members – community membership groups for older people.
The SMEs demonstrated their innovations and asked attendees questions. Although different from face-to-face events, it proved to be a successful alternative.
Testing patient attitudes to artificial intelligence
Artificial intelligence (AI) offers the potential to significantly change care pathways. However, relatively little is known about how patients feel about this automation of care.
Oxford AHSN, working with the company Ufonia, ran two online focus groups, alongside one-to-one sessions with patients and to support the development of an AI solution for triage in head and neck cancer.
We explored patients’ experiences of the existing pathway and their views on the use of the AI solution to improve it. Findings from this exercise highlighted the importance of including AI at the right stage of the pathway and the potential advantages and disadvantages as seen by patients. The findings are being incorporated into future iterations of the triage system.