We were commissioned by Havering Primary Care Trust (PCT) to find out what local people thought about the development of a new GP Led Centre. The PCT wanted to know what services the community would like to access through the centre and they were particularly keen to find out the needs of people with learning difficulties, older people and young people.Our brief was to engage with as many people as possible – particularly some hard to reach groups whose opinions are seldom heard – to ensure this new facility would meet the needs of everyone in the local community. Our findings were crucial and would influence the development of the whole project.
We launched with a desk top research exercise to identify the specific health related issues in the area and the groups most affected. Then we mapped the different groups we needed to engage with, which included people with learning and physical disabilities, their carers and support workers; older residents; young people in care; students; people with chronic illnesses; and parents of children with special needs.
We knew we needed to get out and speak to as many groups of people as possible so we developed a general questionnaire and our outreach team carried out surveys in public places including shopping malls, shopping parades and outside schools and colleges. We attended meetings of advocacy and support groups to talk about the proposed GP Led Centre and find out what services people wanted and how they wanted those services to be delivered. We held a series of focus groups and workshops for people with learning difficulties; carers; parents with children with special needs; young people in care; and students at the local FE college.
Whilst our original brief was to find out the types of services the community required, we found that many residents were most concerned about how these services should be provided. Thanks to our research we uncovered a range of issues that the local community felt strongly about and were able to advise the PCT that in developing the project the needed to give consideration to good and responsive customer service, information sharing to improve diagnoses and treatment, building accessibility and the use of space to minimize stress to users.
Our work enabled the PCT to develop a project that responds directly to the needs of the local community. We influenced the design of the new building to improve accessibility, including the first Changing Places toilet to be opened in a Polyclinic. This was in direct response to the feedback gained through our extensive consultation.
Our comprehensive engagement methods allowed us to successfully engage with residents whose views are seldom heard or who can be difficult to reach including carers; people with learning difficulties; young people in care; and parents of children with special needs. Knowing their issues have been listened to and that the building was designed in response to their feedback means local people view the new centre as a true community facility that was genuinely developed with them in mind.