I was a one of a team of 100 facilitators on Saturday as 1000 people attended the first ever Citizens Summit in Britain. – see BBC Report at this link; http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4388294.stm
The event was held at the International Conference Centre in Birmingham and brought together 1000 members of the public to help the Government decide the priorities for healthcare outside hospitals for the next few years.
There is to be a White Paper called Health Outside Hospitals published later this year and the opinions of members of the public have been gathered through a series of regional events that culminated on Saturday in this massive event.
It was a great to be involved in a history making occasion. Never before has any government department brought together 1000 people to inform ministers about what the public want.
I was impressed with the technology and indeed the organisation of getting 1000 people into one large room from 9am until 5pm – with only a 20 minute break - and the productivity and outcomes were awesome.
Each facilitator had a table of 10 people and we were asked to input live online through laptop computers the comments and views of our 10 members of the public to a 'theme team' who then summarised the thoughts and displayed them on two massive screens in the hall. Instant feedback - wonderful!
Patricia Hewitt - Secretary of State for Health was there all day and got herself around the room to talk to a lot of people.
The cynics will ask was it all worth it and will the government really take any notice.
Mrs Hewitt assured everyone and the massive audience of Web Cast and TV watchers that the views will be taken seriously and the White Paper will reflect the views of the public. I feel that she means what she says.
Although it was a long day - and really hard work for me and the other 99 facilitators - I came away with a good feeling about this event. It seemed a genuine and serious effort to truly listen to the public about the future of the National Health Service.
And given the financial investment the Government has made in this consultation there will quite rightly be uproar from the population if the views expressed are not taken seriously.