A website developed by Buckinghamshire County Council is gathering opinions from diabetes patients to shape the future of local services and tap into residents’ ideas, using “every opinion expressed on the site to help make decisions”, according to the Council.
The Improve Bucks Diabetes site gives people with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and their families in Buckinghamshire a platform to express their challenges, triumphs, views and ideas via a discussion forum to ensure appropriate care is offered locally.
In particular, it aims to encourage people who do not normally attend patient feedback meetings to engage with local health groups and give their opinions. The Council said the site received 1,500 visitors within the first six weeks, with “several hundred people returning time and again”.
Visitors to the site are given set topics to initiate participation, such as ‘what’s daft about diabetes care in Bucks?’ to encourage users to post their views. There are also incentives such as a points system based on votes cast by fellow forum users on the quality of comments.
“Recognising that the traditional user involvement meetings had failed to demonstrate the ability to engage with a broad cross section of the public, we explored the idea of using technology to broaden membership, resulting in the initiative”, Dr Kathy Hoffmann, Diabetes Clinical Lead for Aylesbury Vale and Chiltern Clinical Commissioning Groups told Local Digital.
“The Bucks Diabetes Transformation Programme team wanted to find a way of affording as many people as possible in the community with an interest in diabetes the opportunity to contribute to discussions that would inform programme priorities and more detailed discussions”, Hoffman said.
User input from the site is routinely fed into face-to-face discussions held by the team, in place of the traditional submission of a hefty paper document at the end of a consultation process.
While the community was set up to inform healthcare provision in Buckinghamshire, views are welcome from anyone in the UK. Contributions from the website about which blood glucose monitoring devices should be recommended for patients locally have already been fed into programme team discussions and beyond, Hoffman told Local Digital. It has also passed on opinions on locally available diabetes education, “which have informed the plans for what we should be offering to patients to help them better manage diabetes and reduce the risk of complications”, said Hoffman.
More broadly, diabetes services in Buckinghamshire are currently being reviewed by the Bucks Diabetes Transformation team. Over the next few months, the team will take action based on the ideas and opinions gathered via the website with decisions reported on the website so that users can see the effect of their ideas.
The pilot began in June and finishes at the end of this month. Buckinghamshire County Council had not said at the time of writing whether the site will continue in its current form.
The website is a joint project run by Healthwatch Bucks, local Diabetes UK groups, Aylesbury Vale Diabetes UK Group and Chiltern Diabetes UK Group as well as Buckinghamshire County Council’s Assistive Technology Team.
Image credit: Paul Clarke.