Our health needs as a nation are changing. Improvements in healthcare mean we are now living longer than ever, yet these advances also bring new challenges. At the same time, we are living in a society which places greater value on individual empowerment, blurring the traditional divide between professional ‘experts’ and passive service users. Patients are now recognised as experts in their own lives and conditions, with a valuable contribution to make in determining their support needs.
All this is taking place against a backdrop of austerity and cuts to services, meaning that a radical rethink is required around service design and delivery. If patients are the experts on their service needs, why not engage these experts to help produce the services? Co-production of health and social services both reduces pressure on already stressed systems, while providing an increased sense of autonomy and wellbeing to the user.
Commissioners and providers have a crucial role to play in promoting and funding the integration of asset-based approaches into service models so that they become the default way of working.
Yet when it comes to complex needs, our research showed that many commissioners and professionals are unsure about the ability of service users to contribute to shaping the services they use, or to wider society. It is this evident gap between policy and practice that we set out to resolve.