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Blog: Consumer engagement ‘explained like never before’

Partners in Care
24 November 2019

Gary Sutcliffe is a coordinator at the Health Consumer Advisory Service and a former member of the Health Quality & Safety Commission’s consumer network. He shares his thoughts on the new guide from our Partners in Care programme Progressing consumer engagement in primary care | Te whakakoke i te whai wāhi a te kiritaki ki te tiaki hauora tuatahi.

Consumer engagement can be easily defined as a partnership centred on the person, family and whānau, yet often health care providers fail at this most basic level.

Having worked in this area for many years, I have worked to improve consumer engagement in health services and have seen progress made in tertiary and secondary services over the past ten years in particular. However, primary care is one area where it has been harder to gain traction. So I was heartened to see that the Commission had published a new guide with the aim of progressing consumer engagement in primary health care settings.

The guide makes it easy to identify various things, people and processes that are important for consumer engagement. It talks about involving consumers, families and whānau in their own care planning and listening to their values, preferences and goals of care and what is important to them when considering treatment options.

In my contracted work as a consumer auditor, auditing mental health and addictions services this – care/support plans – is an area I focus on. I determine what input they have had into their plan and whether or not they feel that this is their plan, not the organisation's plan for them. To see this highlighted is an important step.

The first section ‘A framework for consumer engagement’ states consumer engagement is ‘A partnership centred on the person, family and whānau’. This is described in the guide better than I have ever read before.

I have earmarked many pages to refer back to when liaising with consumer groups and organisations.

The guide is excellent and I highly recommend it for anyone working to improve consumer engagement in their service.

Author: Gary Sutcliffe, coordinator, Health Consumer Advisory Service NZ, Health Navigator Charitable Trust

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