Consulting stakeholders in decisions about local health services



Psychological therapies (PTs), which include talking therapies such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and counselling, are now a big priority for the Government eager to reduce over-reliance on medication and to improve accessibility and choice.

Millions of pounds to improve PT services are being earmarked for Primary Care Trusts (PCTs), which commission services, to help people with common mental health problems such as depression.  Two Midlands PCTs independently commissioned Say to undertake rapid engagement programmes with key stakeholders prior to designing new services.  With strong professional and patient interests at stake, both Trusts needed to garner stakeholder insights in a short timescale. 


Say worked quickly and approached an agreed ‘basket’ of key stakeholders.  They included local GPs with an interest in mental health, expert patients, the voluntary sector as well as PCT commissioning managers.  Key insights were drawn out via group and one to one qualitative interviews.  Some interviews were undertaken face to face and some by telephone while some were in focus group format.  Questioning and interviewing were carefully constructed to feed valuable insights for use in system models.  Key quotes and points were reported anonymously to encourage frank discussion in interviews.


The reports enabled the respective PCTs to acquire precious insights on how service users and healthcare professionals would like PT services to evolve.  The richness of the data demonstrated the value of intense engagement over more traditional and passive consultation.  Engaging key groups was perceived as a positive achievement in itself:  service user groups, some of whom were traditionally suspicious of NHS management, were impressed that the Trusts were willing to engage in such a proactive way.