Public Reference Group​: our story so far

Thank you for your interest in to our story.

The NHS is changing: it needs your help to keep communities healthy and it needs to hear your voice. Since the start of 2016 we have been working together with people who buy health services on behalf of Lewisham residents: we are the Lewisham Public Reference Group.

We are a group of ordinary people who reflect some of the demographics and health issues in Lewisham and are asked our views to help shape the work of the CCG on an on-going basis.

It is important that the CC
G captures equality information, and that it works with people who have a diverse range of interests which relate to the work of the CCG. As a group we have a range of beliefs: Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, and no religion at all. Some of us have learning disabilities. Some of us have physical disabilities.

The journey 

At the start

Most of us didn't know each other, so early on we created an understanding within the group about how we wanted to work with each other – we decided to create ground rules. When the group creates its own rules it tends to stick to them! There were no incidents of members going completely off track and not sticking to these rules, despite varied knowledge and experience. Everyone had the opportunity to participate in a way that suited him or her best. The group agreed to refresh ground rules when new members join.

The process 

The Lewisham PRG reports into the Public Engagement and Equalities Forum, who feed into the Governing Body of Lewisham CCG. We were asked what we wanted to know more about – this is what we said:

  • How does the CCG work with other organisations in the borough to buy services? (This is often called Joint Commissioning Intentions)
  • How will the CCG deal with the diversity in the borough and make sure we treat everyone equally?
  • Could we have a visual structure of where we fit into the whole governance of the CCG?
  • Could we have a timeline of decisions that the group can influence and/or the CCG will report on?
  • We need to understand how we can best use our skills and if we need any training? 
Dr Marc Rowland is the Chair of the CCG. He welcomed us to the CCG on day one, and answered some of our questions about the role of the CCG. This helped to inform us.

Deciding our Terms of Reference

Terms of Reference are a set of points for the group so that those participating know why the group is being held and the responsibilities of those attending. We took time to think about our roles and responsibilities and discussed within the group about how roles that would support the work of the PRG. We decided to have a single Chairperson and two Vice Chairs to structure and coordinate the meetings. An open vote was held to elect. The group developed terms of reference which were approval by the Public Engagement and Equalities Forum - you can view the terms of reference here.

Improved Knowledge and Understanding of the CCG

As well as presentations and discussions we were given a range of documents to help us understand the work of the CCG and the role that we might play. We use these to refer to before and after each meeting if we need to reinforce our learning.

What we have achieved as a group so far 

As a group we have actively engaged with Lewisham CCG commissioners and offered our critical contribution to areas such as Mental Health, Equality, End of Life Care, Diabetes and Orthopaedics. Our group members have also helped Lewisham CCG to reach wider communities thanks to our presence at specific health events and public festivals such as People's Day and the Phoenix Festival.

Read a year in the life of setting up a Public Reference Group in Lewisham.