That wasn’t a consultation…

From the Save Southend NHS Facebook page:

Thank you to the very knowledgeable and well respected member of our local community, Sherry Fuller, who is highly experienced in pubic consultations. Here are her thoughts after attending the #SAVS STP discussion event on Monday.

Thought about today’s consultation event at SAVS re STP is that it wasn’t a consultation event.

At best, it was a communication event. Two communication leads went through some slides that gave broad information about some of the elements of the STP project. There was a short amount of time afterwards for a few questions from the floor. These questions were recorded as ‘feedback’ from the event.

This isn’t consultation.

The ideal: participants given materials pertinent to the consultation ahead of the event to allow time to peruse and formulate questions. The brochure we were given today – which was barely referenced to during the event – wasn’t a clear consultation document, it was what I would consider a publicity brochure.

At the event itself, I would expect facilitated round table conversations, about clear and complete proposals, giving the opportunity for everyone present to have a say. Facilitators should make efforts to accurately record comments, concerns, questions and ideas.

What I saw today was a good attempt by SAVS to summarise themes arising in questions from a few participants and SAVS taking notes. I didn’t notice much, if any, recording from the communication leads themselves.

As a member of the public what I want from a consultation event or activity is clarity about:

– What changes are proposed
– What options are up for consideration and how those options were arrived at (there was some of this today)
– What is and isn’t included within the scope of this consultation (this was the biggest failure point – people kept asking questions that we were told weren’t applicable to this part of the project.)
– What my opportunity is to influence the proposals and how I can do this.

There wasn’t time today for participants to peruse proposals, which were not clear anyway – most of the communication was around five key principles. Principles don’t tell me enough about what’s proposed to be changed) – and we therefore couldn’t respond in a meaningful way. It wasn’t at all clear what was and wasn’t in scope.

Furthermore the meeting started half hour late cutting short discussion time.

When people asked for detail – they were referred to the official consultation document which I understand can be found on line.

I reinforced what was said by others – to allow time for ‘intelligent consideration ‘(which includes time for consultees to prepare a response) the deadline of 9 March should be extended.

However, the event leads felt that sufficient consultation has been carried out and that the deadline is unlikely to move.

If other ‘consultation events’ have been of the same format as today’s, then I would argue that this is more communications and PR than it is consultation. Giving a presentation and then fielding a few questions isn’t consultation.’


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