Service USer involvement
user involvement is
about give and take,
says Mark Pryke
An equAl pArtnership
MY ROLE IS TO HELP INCREASE OPPORTUNITIES AND
CHOICES FOR SERVICE USERS. The more options we can
offer people in terms of their treatment and structured
activities, the more likely they are to choose one.
We want to avoid things being done to people, so the
development of services should be an organic process –
it’s all about collaboration. I enjoy hearing about service
users who have stood up and said, ‘you need to hear
this’. It’s important to be receptive when a service user
wants to say something and needs an answer.
People sometimes misinterpret service user
involvement (SUI), believing it to mean that service
users can have anything they want. In practice,
because of regulations, safeguarding and resources,
we can’t always respond to every request as service
users would like – but what we can do is give honest
and frank reasons why we can’t take an idea forward.
This helps people to understand the reasons why they
don’t always get what they ask for.
I help people to share stories about what their
challenges were and how they got round them. This
can be incredibly motivating to tell and hear. I also
attend communities and partner meetings – sharing
the SUI approach and the ways it can be used to
create positive change.
We need to make sure that the service user
involvement feedback loop works effectively. Service
users participate in surveys and changes, but often
they don’t hear what’s happened to their input or the
outcomes and results. This devalues the system. So
when we have an outcome, we need to share it.
Anyone can be a service user rep and often they are
ex users of the service. Reps support a more flowing
and honest conversation as a staff presence may
influence service user responses. You are more likely to
share your story with someone like you. The regional
SU councils come together to discuss and share
resources, and the network helps people to talk to
others in a safe and supported way.
8 | drinkanddrugsnews | December/January 2019
Our services attract people from many different
backgrounds, enabling us to access a massive bank of
information – people with a wealth of knowledge and
experience to whom we can ask questions and vice
versa, and whose experience and creativity can help
other people overcome their challenges. Service users
get fulfilment from giving back and knowing they, and
their opinions, are valued too.
Their feedback can also influence practice. Last
year we became aware that service users were having
difficulty getting their medication if they moved away
for a few weeks or went on holiday – their prescription
needed to go with them. Service users would come in
say, ‘I’m going on holiday on Monday and I need my
prescription sorted,’ and wouldn’t be happy that we’d
need more time.
To help resolve this we developed a ‘Going away on
holiday’ poster to make it clear we needed four weeks
to make arrangements for them to continue their
treatment. We consulted on the poster with regional
services and our national service user committee and
the feedback helped us develop a clear visual and
catchy strapline that tackled the problem effectively.
We’ve also redesigned our waiting areas, adding
toys for people who need to bring along their kids and
bike racks so people can cycle. Suggestions come
through at a local level and then managers decide
what’s most appropriate for their service.
We should be asking questions in the places where
service users go. We need to reach out using methods
that are engaging, and improve our digital offer.
People don’t want to give their time without seeing
the benefits or receiving some other type of incentive.
It’s got be reciprocal.
Meetings should be structured so service users can
talk about what’s affecting them and not have the
agenda set for them. The agenda needs to emerge as
part of the natural conversation so that they feel like
they own that meeting.
‘I help people to share
stories about what
their challenges were
and how they got
Service user feedback can make a difference
straightaway. For instance, in Gateshead we asked
service users why they might have missed their
appointments. One of the many people who had to
travel right across the city to get to the service said,
‘It’s going to cost me a tenner to get the bus and it
might not even turn up, so I have to get a taxi and on
my way to the bus stop I’ve got to walk past the dealer
or the off licence. So realistically where’s that tenner’s
going go?’ Staff realised the Tesco superstore next to
the service had a community bus that did a regular
circuit, so they made sure service users were given
appointment times that coincided with the bus
timetable. Everybody wins.
We try and tailor services to meet service users’
needs but these often change and we’re learning all
the time that we need to facilitate options and
choices. There are still many cohorts of service users
who we’d like to hear from, such as individuals who
access our street outreach services. We can’t shirk the
challenge. Instead we can work towards this in little
steps, so it’s meaningful.
Mark Pryke is national service user lead at Change,
Grow, Live (CGL)