West London Collaborative was set up after service users, carers and staff at West London Mental Health Trust concluded service user involvement was not working.
Local people were being ‘involved’ or ‘consulted’, but the real decisions were made behind closed doors by the professionals. A group of service users, carers, patients and staff challenged this by calling for co-production to be the way to work with local people. They wanted local people to be meaningfully involved – to have an equal say and an authentic role in the delivery and decision-making. They wanted to have a voice that mattered.
Benefits to people and the wider community
There are good reasons for this. Research has found that when co-production is done properly it can dramatically improve services. But it has also been shown to positively transform the lives of those people taking part. Local people develop their skills and experience. They are recognised as important assets to the services they use and to their communities. This increases self-esteem and wellbeing, it reduces social isolation and it can help people get back into employment or education where appropriate. And it has knock-on benefits for everyone as people become active citizens in their local communities rather than passive recipients of support.
There are many important decisions to make about the shape of future services, which are having to operate with less funding because of current restrictions on public expenditure. So we must find imaginative, innovative solutions so services are actually changed for the better, not for the worse – even though there is considerably less money in the pot.
There are many areas that local people can potentially influence. For example, at West London Mental Health Trust, local people are now working with staff to improve patients’ experience of discharge from hospital. Other areas include: supporting people to make their own informed decisions around the use of medication; how the process of being moved from the care of a psychiatrist back to a local GP is handled; and significantly reducing the number of incidents where patients are restrained and secluded.
As services improve and professionals’ relationships with the people they care for improves, they’re less likely to be ‘blamed’ for bad patient experience, and so staff morale and job satisfaction rises.