On Saturday NHS Citizen attended the NHS Youth Forum day of action in London. The focus of the Forum was youth mental health. Young people from all over the country took part in a range of interactive, informative and practical workshops with healthcare professionals and other NHS staff, with the aim of developing tools and recommendations for the future.
NHS Citizen was one of a number of stalls, many showcasing best practice in youth mental health from across the country. At the NHS Citizen stall we chatted to young people about the issues that mattered to them most and explained how NHS Citizen could help them get their voices heard. We asked young people the following questions:
- Do you think the NHS is a listening organisation?
- What does the NHS mean to you?
- If you had an idea to change the NHS what would you do with it?
- How can you have your say in decisions about the NHS?
Delegates at the Forum were extremely informed about mental health issues, many with their own personal experiences, and also expressed their thoughts on wider systemic issues that resonate with what we have heard at other NHS Citizen events. There was a sense that the NHS was a listening organisation, or at least starting to listen, but that this was not consistent across the country and there was concern that action was not taken. Some people felt that they didn’t know where to go in the system if they had a problem, and that getting support was even more difficult if you were ill and vulnerable.
Young people supported NHS values, but were concerned with how these could be put into practice to join up health and social care. There were also practical ideas to improve mental health like making more information available in GP and hospital waiting rooms and extending the amount of time people could spend with GPs when discussing mental health issues. Other young people felt there was a disconnect between themselves and top decision makers and seemed to welcomed the idea of NHS Citizen as a space for their voices to reach the heart of the NHS to make a real difference across the organisation.
If NHS Citizen is to be successful it is crucial we get more support and insights from young people to create a space that is relevant and makes sense to them. In particular we need help to bridge the gap between online and offline – especially since many young people are fluent in the use of social media and other online spaces. We are pleased that some people signed up for our next NHS Citizen event in Bristol on the 24th and 25th July where we will test out the technology that might support Discover, Gather and the Assembly and we would welcome any more people.