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Hello my name is Elaine Appelbee and I serve as the independent Chair of the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership.

This month’s I’m focussing on how we build on a programme of work called Listen In that helps bring our partnership closer to our communities.

In particular, I want to reflect on the ‘Listen In thinking and acting together’ event that was held recently on Wednesday 5 October.  The topic we focused on was the challenge that people can face in accessing their GP.

Our journey to this event began exactly a year ago when Board and staff members made their first community visits in Craven as part of, what was at the time, a new approach we developed called Listen In. Listen In brings decision makers and our wider partnership colleagues to the heart of our communities to hear directly from people about what matters to them and their experiences of health and care

From the very first meeting of the Partnership Board, there has been a strong determination to keep our focus firmly on the people we serve across Bradford District and Craven. We did not want this to be ‘lip service’ but something that lived and breathed a presence through all our thinking together. Nor did we want to stop at listening. Over this last year we have visited every part of the geographical area that our partnership serves.

Speaking personally now, I learnt from forty years of working with communities and public services, that the real difference to people’s lives is made when people in communities and workers in the public, voluntary and private sectors partner together. No one kind of knowledge and experience is enough. Only when all the knowledge from those different perspectives is shared, do we have the right intelligence to make the best decisions. We often describe this as ‘lived experience’, this is a good read from the King’s Fund on how we can use people’s experiences to shape health and care policy, design and delivery.

From our year of listening to different communities across Craven and Bradford District, we learnt that a major issue for people is access to their GP.  Our excellent communications and involvement team, led by Shak Rafiq and Victoria Simmons, set about inviting citizens as well as primary care colleagues and partners.

The result was a wonderful turnout – so many people wanted to come that the team had to set up a waiting list! It is testament to how much passion, commitment and willingness to help and support lies, often untapped, in our communities and services.

I want to thank each person who stepped forward to volunteer their time in order to share their experience and ideas; to colleagues from primary care who came despite the pressures they face to help us to understand their reality; to partners who wanted to show their solidarity to our those working hard, every day, in our GP practices and to discover what they can do to play their part; and to the team of partners who have organised the event.

Around every table we had the range of different perspectives that gave us the right intelligence. Everybody’s contribution was critical to come up with the right actions to give the best results for communities. People who are usually a bit quiet spoke up to make sure they shared their knowledge and experience; others took care to leave time and space so that every viewpoint was heard. Together all the people in the room came up with positive ideas for us to take forward to help to improve people’s access to GPs.

Dr. Louise Clarke, a GP and lead for Strategy, Community tweeted after the event: ‘What an incredible afternoon. So much energy and fantastic, honest discussion about the challenges and opportunities within GP access. I am fizzing with the ideas we created together and can’t wait to get started’.

Thank you, Louise, I couldn’t put it better myself!

This is the start of our work that will bring together the lived experience of patients, carers, our communities and our colleagues so we can explore practical and realistic solutions to respond to what we have been listening to. If you want to be involved in our future events, other opportunities to share your experience and to find out about any proposed changes to local services please visit our dedicated involvement website