The Department of Health has introduced a programme of work aimed at improving its connections with patients and service user experience.  This is partly in response to the findings of the Francis report that indicate the Department can appear remote, but also reflects the fact that we recognise exposing staff to the realities of patient and service user experience will, ultimately, help us make better policy.  We are now beginning our third year of the programme and civil servants have already spent over 7000 days shadowing frontline staff.

A significant part of the programme is about providing opportunities for DH staff to work alongside people in partner organisations.   We want the experience that people get to be significant, and to involve a range of situations across the health and care system.  We also know that we need to manage the process carefully - we don't want to get in the way of service provision, or put patients, service users, and our or your staff at any sort of risk.  

Most organisations offer a model where a member of DH staff would 'buddy up' with someone in their organisation, who would then introduce that member of staff to a range of situations - with patients and service user experience being the central core. As well as spending time in for example, acute care, mental health trusts, community services, third sector, staff have spent some very helpful and informative time with local authorities, and we would be really interested in establishing further partners. Programmes vary and are usually between two and five days, and would usually be within an hour from central London or Leeds, where staff work or live.

We have developed a very successful partnership with London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, who have said ‘We have been involved in the DH connecting programme for around a year now and have recently had our fourth visit. We see the connecting programme as a great opportunity for us to showcase our services, and receive useful feedback on how they appear to our visiting guests. We always try to fit a broad range of visits into the programme including shadowing front line staff, meeting with service users and getting involved in daily activities. Staff enjoy talking through their projects and services with DH teams, and we have had good feedback that our DH guests find it useful.’

We would be very happy to discuss opportunities further – please contact Jane Ellis (London Account Manager for the Connecting Programme ) or Jane Rintoul (Head of the Connecting Programme) on either jane.ellis@dh.gsi.gov.uk or Jane.rintoul@dh.gsi.gov.uk.