Health Minister Edwina Hart yesterday Tuesday, 14 October unveiled new plans to improve engagement and consultation with local people and health professionals by the NHS on any proposed changes.
The interim guidance, which will be in place until new guidance is developed when the NHS is reorganised, places a greater emphasis on better explaining why changes are needed, what services will be put in place and how it will improve patient care.
It makes clear that organisations should undertake continuous engagement with the public rather than limited consultation on specific proposals. NHS Trusts and Local Health Boards will be expected to engage in discussion about why change is needed and what options exist before going out to formal consultation on concrete proposals.
The guidance has been developed following concerns raised about previous consultations on proposed changes to the health service which led to several protests across Wales; responding to the public concerns, the One Wales document committed the Welsh Assembly Government to strengthen guidance in place for the NHS.
The Minister has also asked NHS Trusts and LHBs to inform the Welsh Assembly Government of any proposed changes over the next 12 months, including the nature of the proposals, the consultation planned, and for how long as well as the level of public engagement undertaken in developing the proposals.
Mrs Hart said:
People have a strong affection for their local hospital and services and it has long been my view that the NHS needs two-way engagement when considering service changes, both informing and listening.
The Williams and Goodwin reviews made valuable recommendations about consultation and engagement that supported this view. I have therefore made sure that this principle is at the centre of this revised interim guidance.
The guidance makes clear the importance of engaging with the local community, patients, Community Health Councils and staff, so that service changing proposals are developed with the people that will be affected. The NHS must listen and respond to the views of local people and clinicians and ensure that they are on board with any decisions on changes.