Autumn 2016-Winter 2017
The West, North and East Cumbria Success Regime had been established to find solutions to massive challenges faced by the NHS in the area, in delivering quality healthcare to local residents. The North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust had been put under special measures, and there were ongoing problems with funding, staff recruitment and staff retention.
A consultation on proposed changes to several key service areas – as well as on the overall vision and strategy for the local healthcare system – was proposed. The findings of this would impact on decisions about highly emotive issues, including significant proposed changes to maternity and children’s services. TCC were commissioned to provide independent analysis of responses.
How we approached it
We recognised immediately that the consultation concerned extremely sensitive issues, particularly for residents in certain localities within the county. To help to give an additional picture of wider opinion, we recommended that we conduct a representative telephone survey of residents across the Success Regime area to understand resident priorities for healthcare provision. We subsequently put in place a watertight process for managing incoming data, and convened an analysis team at the genesis of the consultation, ensuring there was time for all team members to review the background to the consultation and build a solid understanding of the proposals and their impact. Throughout the consultation we held regular update meetings with the client.
The consultation garnered a substantial response, with over 5,000 submissions, some of which spoke for several thousand or more individuals. Coinciding with a high profile byelection in the area, in which the NHS was a battleground issue, the final report we produced drew particular media attention. So, while the overall report and appendices comprised over 1,000 pages, we produced an accessible executive summary and an abridged report.
Decisions taken in light of our report included the undertaking of a one year trial of a consultant led maternity unit at West Cumberland Hospital, in light of the strength of feeling about this matter that was reflected in the report.