Principles for involving people and communities

“Put people at the heart of everything you do” is the first design principle in the NHS Digital Service Manual.

NHS Arms Length Bodies have developed a set of principles on working with people and communities. These are applicable to the development, design and delivery of any NHS and care service - not just digital services. They include the need to make sure involvement:

  • is well planned - that it gives the public a real chance to influence policy, service design and delivery from an early stage
  • is accessible - information provided is jargon free, appropriate and understandable
  • has a clear objective for both the team and representative groups or individuals
  • includes follow up and provides feedback to participants - this should include feedback on the difference people’s contributions have made

The NHS Widening Digital Participation programme works to a co-design method of involving users (people), stakeholders (decision makers) and practitioners (frontline staff) in the process of design. It states: “Whether you are designing digital products, patient pathways or both it is important that everyone affected has the opportunity to input into the process.”

Co-design principles

You may want to consider the following co-design principles as a framework for developing your involvement plans.

Design with people, not for them (co-produce)

The premise of co-design is including those who will be affected by decisions. They are the experts in their lives and know their world better than anyone else.

Go where the people are

Conversations are more open and honest when people feel comfortable and safe. Spend time where they spend time. Don’t ask them to come to a formal building as it shifts the power dynamic. Consider your local community spaces.

Relationships not transactions

Health is a very emotive subject. People’s relationships with professionals, peers, digital tools and their environment are unique to them and must be taken into account.

Work in the open

Share your learning. Share your work. Be transparent in your design decisions. Have the confidence to tell people why something has worked and why something has not. It will help others.

Understand underlying behaviour

Look beyond immediate causes to understand the many different factors underlying behaviour: personal and social, cultural and economic. Be conscious of the assumptions that you might make. We look beyond those that others might have made.

Do it now

We learn so much more by trying things. Get digital products there and see what works and what doesn’t. This will unearth things that you will have never considered before and make things better.