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Trust your patients to be able to help you – Professor Andrew Rowland

Trust your patients to be able to help you by Professor Andrew Rowland

How can you demonstrate true leadership when engaging with patients, members of the public and, in particular, children and young people?

‘Do, or do not. There is no try.’ (Master Yoda 896 BBY – 4 ABY)

I have been concerned for sometime now that some professionals and some organisations believe that they are designing ‘things’, be those ‘things’ services, patient information, departments or initiatives, in true partnership and collaboration with children, young people and young adults when, in actual fact, what they are doing is very little more than a tokenistic consultation.

Co-design, and I mean proper co-design, within key parameters, with a mature approach from all participants and with a robust commitment from all parties to succeed with something that is beneficial to all of those parties, is an incredibly satisfying and rewarding way of designing something new.

Recently we have worked for over a year with a group of amazing children, young people, young adults and professionals from a wide range of backgrounds to try and develop a new child protection learning and engagement model suitable for use with children, young people and young adults.

As I look back over this project, which began with the aim of taking a number of NHS “Child Sexual Exploitation Assessment Tools”, working with some children and young people and trying to work out what the “best” questions were from the multitude of tools that are around, and I look at where the participants in this project have got to, I simply think “WOW”!

I say “WOW” not because of the number of professionals who have been involved (which is over 100), not because of the number of organisations that have joined in our discussions, not because of the sheer number of children and young people involved (over 75), but because of the amazing group of children, young people and young adults who have proven why proper co-design is key to achieving a win-win outcome.

We started this process to design a new Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) assessment tool – a psychosocial assessment model – and we’ve ended up with a wide-ranging learning and engagement model, with key pointers for professionals working with children, young people and young adults, about communicating around potentially sensitive topics in a way that is likely to be better received by those key stakeholders – the young people and young adults themselves – than processes we might be using at the moment.

The principles of co-design and co-production of services with children and young people should be an over-arching concept and all of us who work with children, young people, young adults and families have a unique opportunity to put these design principles at the very heart of the strategic values of our organisations.

More about the Not Just a Thought… project

We’ve heard very clearly from these groups that there are key features of interactions with those children, young people and young adults that are essential to get to the honest heart of problems they may be suffering from. Those features include the values of mutual respect; promoting diversity and valuing people as individuals.

If we listen to children, young people and young adults, our best days are likely to be still ahead of us. If we reach for those days together, in true partnership with the principle of co-design firmly rooted in all of our interactions, we can all have a much better role to play in building a stronger, fairer, more inclusive society. A society for children, young people, young adults and adults alike with healthy children and young people at the very heart of it.

Throughout this project the professionals and the children, young people and young adults who have worked collaboratively together have had to discuss some very sensitive and potentially difficult topics. To do that in an open way – with each party willing to be transparent about the change that they would like to see, has shown great courage.

By valuing the input of children, young people and young adults and by recognising that their opinions, thoughts and dreams are important, together we can make a brighter future for us all. Working with children, young people and young adults has never been as important as it is now, and it has to be our collaborative mission together to give every child, young person and young adult every chance of happiness, good health and protection from harm.

The challenge I’d set to you – and one that responding to would show true leadership – is to have the confidence, respect and enthusiasm to trust your patients to be able to help you (yes, even the really young ones) and to work out how your organisation or you as an individual can ensure that in the future, co-design of projects, services and initiatives for children and young people, with children and young people, and tackling potentially sensitive discussions, will be Not Just a Thought…

___ [The final results of the Not Just a Thought… project will be available in Autumn 2017]

___ Professor Andrew Rowland is Honorary Professor (Paediatrics) at Salford University, Interim Deputy Medical Director at The Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust, Head of the UK Delegation to the European Union of Medical Specialists, a Churchill Fellow of the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of SicKids, a member of the Board of Directors of M’Lop Tapang in Cambodia and holder of an Association Medal of the British Medical Association.

Andrew is originally from County Durham, UK and went to Medical School in Nottingham, UK from 1995-2000. He spent a year working as a junior doctor in Nottingham before moving to Manchester in 2001 to train in Paediatrics and Paediatric Emergency Medicine in the North West of England. He took up his first Consultant post in Paediatric Emergency Medicine on 1 April 2009.



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