Consulting during a pandemic

We’re sometimes asked whether it is appropriate that we are consulting on proposed changes to Leicester’s hospitals during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The simple answer to this is ‘yes’. 

Every single day of delay is another of spreading our staff too thinly, and patients being denied changes which will improve their experiences and outcomes of care. It’s also another of not addressing the lessons learned from dealing with this pandemic to ensure we’re in the best possible place to respond to another in the future.

We’ve developed a consultation plan that allows us to deliver what’s required of us legally, but more importantly it has enabled us to consult meaningfully with as many people as possible from right across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

Technology has played an important role in this, particularly in overcoming the limitations placed on meetings in public due to ongoing coronavirus restrictions. 

For example, this week we ran a Facebook ‘live’ event which had over 500 participants at its peak – while 20,000 more watched back the session in the six hours afterwards. This kind of activity has enabled us to reach a far greater audience than would have ever been possible through more traditional methods. More of these events are planned in the coming weeks.

More than 20 online events have been put on, the format of which closely mirrors what might have been expected at face-to-face meetings. 

Recognising not everyone has online access it has been possible for participants to dial into these events by phone, making them accessible to more people. Meanwhile we have supported individuals to provide feedback to the consultation by post and telephone if they are unable to take part online.

We’ve also gone to great lengths to make sure that as many people as possible are aware of our exciting plans and have the opportunity to take part in the consultation should they wish. This includes:

  • Commissioning 18 voluntary and community organisations to reach out to seldom heard and often overlooked communities to encourage and support them to participate;
  • Proactive working with the Council of Faiths to disseminate messages across our many diverse communities through respected faith leaders;
  • Extensive media coverage in county-wide and locality specific media including the Leicester Mercury, BBC Radio Leicester and BBC East Midlands Today;
  • Three full page advertorials across local newspapers including the Leicester Mercury, Loughborough Echo, Hinckley Times, Coalville Times, Rutland Times, Rutland & Stamford Mercury, Harborough Mail and Melton Times;
  • Commissioning of extensive six-week radio advertising across cultural and community specific radio stations including Sabras Sound, EAVA, Kohinoor, Sanskar and Seer;
  • Commissioning of extensive four-week radio advertising across local commercial and community radio stations serving LLR including Capital FM, Fosseway, 103 The Eye, Hermitage FM, HFM, Carillon,  GHR Stamford and Rutland and Cross Counties Radio;
  • Targeted TV advertising, using smart technology, of residents aged 55 and above and those less likely to be digitally enabled or regular users of social media;
  • Extensive utilisation of social media, including local NHS-owned platforms and paid for advertising to target Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and SnapChat across our area;
  • Placement of content on more than 75 local community websites and newsletters covering areas, towns and villages across the city and two counties;
  • Posters and information provided to hundreds of local shops and community venues throughout Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland.

In addition, the local NHS commissioned a solus delivery of an information leaflet to around 440,000 residential properties across Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. Whilst many people have told us that they have received this leaflet, we are also aware that some believe they have not.

We have raised this with our delivery partners who have provided us with GPS tracking information for their agents, as well as feedback from telephone calls to a sample of homes within each of the postcode areas to validate delivery. Naturally, we continue to monitor and improve the activity we are undertaking to share our proposals with the public.

We are confident that our activities as detailed above, many of which have been enhanced and extended, are comprehensive and that the approach we have taken has allowed us to meet both our statutory and common law duties.