Over a quarter of England’s population – 15.4 million – has a long-term condition. Care for those people absorbs 70 per cent of the country’s hospital and primary care budgets.
Engagement has an important role to play in reducing their impact, through fostering more integrated support to help people manage their long-term condition, allowing them to be as independent and healthy as possible.
During the last few months we’ve been working on engagement and communications for Birmingham South Central CCG’s Long-Term Conditions Group, which has brought this issue thoroughly into focus. And the value of engagement was highlighted this month when the wider project to develop the Group was named winner of Gateway Family Services’ Partnership Award.
Engagement is always best when planned strategically to help an organisation reach its goals. In this case, it was great to build engagement into a long-term vision of closer partnership working, while focusing on support ‘right now’ for people in Birmingham.
The aim was to:
• Raise awareness of the Long-Term Conditions Group, engaging through Twitter, using leaflets and poster communications in surgeries and other settings, and placing news on websites and in stakeholder news outlets. This was to encourage attendance, more contact with patients with conditions in the area and links with relevant organisations.
• Develop surveys to capture more information about Group members, regularly tracking and plotting their experiences of services and how they were with their condition.
• Map stakeholders and develop relationships with them, while researching existing condition-specific groups for people to access. This saw partnerships strengthened or established with service providers, voluntary and community sector organisations and charities.
More broadly, it’s clear that tackling the long-term condition issue is no mean feat. But the goal is to enable people to recover more in the community and at home, reduce the likelihood of multiple appointments and hospital stays, and put in place more preventative and early measures from the outset to lessen the severity of conditions.
But this project is a case in point that strategic engagement one of the solutions to improving the picture across England, to make a real difference to people who live with one or more long-term conditions.