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Hi, Elaine Appelbee here. Welcome to this, my second blog, as the Independent Chair of the Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership Board. I did promise after doing my first blog I’ll commit to providing regular reflections, so here I am.

This second blog picks up on the theme of my first blog – the importance of providing opportunities for partnerships like ours to draw in the wisdom, knowledge and creativity of people in our communities. I want to tell you about one of the ways we are acting on this belief.

We know listening to people is the right thing to do, for those who would like the evidence behind this I can provide this too. Earlier this year New Local published a report highlighting how communities want to have more influence over the issues they face, the challenges they want to overcome, and the services they use. Prior to that New Local had published an insightful report on a community-powered NHS which focuses on how working with communities we can tackle some of the challenges facing health and care, particularly by paying attention to prevention.

These voices and perspectives need to be from the different geographical communities we serve; from different communities of interest, whether of culture or of experience; from different age groups and so on. In truth, as wide and diverse as we can possibly manage. The greater the diversity we draw on, the richer the expertise and experience we will have access to, the better and more effective will be our decision-making.

One of the best parts of my job as the Chair is to be active in bringing a range of voices and perspectives into the committee. This is to try to ensure that our decision-making is as good as it can be by taking account of these.

During our Board meeting in July we found out more about the work of our Citizens Forum and a new way of us as a partnership and us as leaders going into our communities. A presentation with innovative ideas on how we improve openness and transparency demonstrated what we could do differently. And then we heard about an emerging concept called our Listen In programme.

To gather in this wider expertise and experience means getting out and about. It is no good just expecting people to come to us. So that is what members of the Board and the staff who serve it have been doing this month.

Our first ever Listen In week started in Craven. Our Board meets six times a year. Each meeting is held in a different part of Bradford District and Craven. Ahead of each of our Board meetings we will be visiting community groups and community centres in the locality where our meeting is being held. Our November meeting is to be held in Skipton, hence our October visits to the different communities in Craven.

We visited groups in Skipton, Settle, Bentham, and Grassington. We met members of the public in the market place and over lunch. We met with communities of interest covering many fields related to health and care: age-related; Carers; families with children with additional needs; and people with experience of mental ill-health.

We were moved and inspired by people’s openness and honesty; their willingness to share their experiences and ideas to improve health and care services. What surprised me, though it shouldn’t have, was people’s generosity in giving of their time when asked: ‘Please can you spare a few minutes for the NHS?’ Everyone I asked that question of, agreed to talk. It was proof to me that the special bond that people feel with the NHS is still alive and kicking. And this despite the challenges and the frustrations that they sometimes experience in getting the timely help they need. We do know that not everyone’s experience and feedback was as positive and this reflects the national trend around people’s perception and satisfaction with the NHS, while still having great pride in the NHS.

In Settle Market Place, where people had had recent contact with the NHS for example, it was great to hear that they had been pleased with the services that they had received at Airedale and at the Bradford Hospitals. Over and over they said that the staff had treated them with care and concern. They told us that they did get frustrated when trying to book GP appointments but that once through to health staff they were happy with the care they received. People also explained the ways in which they tried to take care of their health by being proactive with diet and exercise.

It’s not all about the formal health and social care services though. We saw first hand the vital role that community and voluntary groups play in supporting people to be ‘happy, healthy and at home’. We saw the ways in which people have been supported through tough times, have discovered new friendships, had access to the arts and the chance to learn and develop new skills. All of which have combined to improve quality of life, the most important job of all.

In January we will be meeting at Royds Community Association in Bradford South. In December, ahead of that January meeting, we will be out and about listening to the people in that area of Bradford.

We are only able to do this work with the help of our staff and partners.

Thanks go to colleagues in our communications and involvement team, Hale, Healthwatch Bradford and District and so many members of our Citizens Forum and our community groups for setting up this important ‘Listen in’ programme of connecting with communities.

For our visits to Craven special thanks go to the many community and voluntary groups who hosted us and enabled us to have conversations with local people. We will publishing an independent analysis of what people have said during the Listen In week in Craven and will share these at our Board meeting on Tuesday 8 November. This is a meeting held in public, you’d be very welcome to attend.

Elaine Appelbee (you can find me on Twitter @elaineappelbee)

Independent Chair for Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership Board