How have we arrived here?

Back in October 2022, as Chair and Co-Chair of the HSE National Patient and Service User Forum*, we received a last-minute invitation to attend a HSE conference in Croke Park. Listening to the presenters on the day, many of whom were talking about issues which were deeply relevant to patients and service users, we thought ‘what if we could flip the script on conferences like this?’

Imagine if we had a conference where there were patients and service users alongside professionals, managers and health leaders. Imagine a gathering where partnership served as the vehicle for propelling us towards a more representative, responsive, and resilient healthcare system. Imagine if we could convince the HSE to support us in connecting a community of patients and service users (and staff!) who are passionate and enthusiastic about partnership.

With this vision in mind, we shared our idea with Joe Ryan, the National Director for Operational Performance and Integration. Joe not only listened attentively but, set in train a close collaboration between the HSE National Patient and Service User Forum and the HSE Patient and Service User Experience Office, which ultimately helped us turn this idea into a reality.

The conference hopes to reignite a conversation around how we choose to partner for service design, policy development, and organisational change. It tests enthusiasm for moving forward together, it starts a discussion around a shared vision for engagement in the future, and it kick starts (hopefully) a whole series of other conversations around partnership (be it around specific conditions, policies, services, or communities). In sum, we hope it offers a reset – a starting point from which we all commit to achieve more through partnership.

We hope you enjoy the day, and we hope you consider joining the Forum if you are interested in supporting future discussions. We hope to be back here again next year with more input, more 

* Established in 2015, the HSE National Patient and Service User Forum comprises of individual patients and service users, family members, carers and supporters, as well as representatives of patient organisations, disability organisations, advocacy groups, and special interest groups. The Forum members meet bi-monthly online to discuss a range of issues of importance to patient and service users, from co-design, to digital transformation, to health region implementation. Membership is open to all and new members are always welcome. For more information, please contact Nicola Williams [email protected] or visit https://www.hse.ie/eng/about/who/national-services/partnering-with-patients/national-patient-forum/.

The organising committee

Anne Lawlor, Chair of the Forum, Chair of 22q11 Ireland

Laura Kavanagh, Co-chair of the Forum, IPPOSI

Kara Madden, Chair of Patients for Patients Safety Ireland

Joe Ryan, National Director, HSE Operational Performance and Integration

Iolo Eilian, Assistant National Director, HSE Patient and Service User Experience Office

Special thanks

Special thanks to the many members of the HSE National Patient and Service User Forum who have advised and guided all the iterations of the agenda and the theme since the idea was first proposed in March. 

In particular, we thank you for your hard work in finalising our own Forum Vision for Partnership, which we are proud to share here today. We hope this serves as a support to conversations with all of those in the health sector who may partner with patients and service users in the future.

Also special thanks to Mila Whelan, Nicola Williams, Orla O’Reilly and Julia Barry who supported the coordination and preparation of the conference.

What is the conference about?

The theme of the conference is partnership. We know this is a very big topic, and we know that future conversations will need to get into more detail. This first conference on partnership aims to identify consensus for moving forward with partnership as an approach, and it starts the conversation around what building blocks may need to be put in place.

The conference focuses on strategic partnerships. Partnerships n 1) service design/deliver 2) programme/policy development/implementation and 3) organisational change/governance. It asks what policy, what training, what mechanisms need to be put in place to move towards this goal.

As members of the HSE National Patient and Service User Forum, we believe a mix of individual advocates and patient and service user organisation representatives are needed in a variety of roles to make sure that we have a complete picture of the experience of the people using our service, but also of their collective needs, preferences and expectations. We need to make sure that we not only listen, but that we ensure their voice has influence over final decisions and outcomes.

Who is attending?

The conference audience comprises of 60% patients and service users, family members, carers and supporters. The other 40% includes HSE staff from the national and regional levels as well as other state agencies with an interest in partnership and representatives from the Department of Health.

What will be the outcome?

We hope many new connections (and potentially, future partnerships) will be made on the day. 

We hope that more people will choose to engage (and improve) the engagement mechanisms in place within the HSE at the moment (the National Patient and Service User Forum, being one of them). 

We hope that more staff will feel like partnership is possible, that it has value and that it will benefit what they are ultimately trying to achieve – which is to best care for the individuals accessing our health service.

Will there be a report?

The conference report is being prepared by an independent rapporteur and it will be available shortly after the event.

The HSE National Patient and Service User Forum also plan to prepare their own reflections on the conference, and these will be shared in annex to the report