We built it... and they came! Challenge 2020

Posted 15:22 Friday 8 July 2016
Nick Goodman

Nick Goodman

About this blogger
MES Managing Director, Nick Goodman, sharing results of our Engageometer survey so far.

With the dust starting to settle, I thought I’d put together a brief summary of the highlights of Membership Engagement Services’ (MES) first conference, held on Wednesday 6 July 2016 at the Royal College of General Practitioners at 30 Euston Square in London.

On the programme

Challenge 2020: Advancing Health Engagement & Involvement was a day dedicated to our primary subject matter: engagement, patient experience and governance. For each theme, we had five breakout sessions, broken up by four keynote addresses. So, a packed day, but we managed to weave in some tea and coffee time, and an extremely fine lunch! As ever, our aim at MES is to bring people together to share, learn and explore – that ambition anchored the day.

Challenge 2020: Advancing Health Engagement & Involvement programme

We’ll be providing more information in the coming days, including the presentation slide decks from speakers and a highlights video, so watch this space. For now, though, some quick thoughts…

Looking back

I kicked off proceedings by taking a look back at 2006 and the health engagement landscape as it was then – really pretty light, and limited largely to the newly forming NHS Foundation Trusts. A decade on, and the active role of patients and communities is absolutely central to how the NHS views its purpose. It sounds obvious, yet a decade ago it wasn’t so clearly stated. For example, we now have an NHS Constitution, the Five Year Forward View, and other documents that firmly place the need to engage with people as a must-do, not a could-do. Our Engageometer was presented as a snapshot of how things look on the ground.

...and looking forward

Julia Holding, Head of Patient Experience from NHS Improvement, talking at Challenge 2020

Julia Holding, Head of Patient Experience at the newly-formed NHS Improvement, then took us through the view from there, highlighting good examples of what’s being done and tangibly changing, and setting out the vision from the regulator’s perspective on patient experience and engagement.

Breaking out – part one

We then moved into breakout sessions with great, informative speakers from NHS Providers, Patient Opinion, and crowd-sourcing experts, Wazoku; The Consultation Institute, NHS England, and our partners, PanSensic.

A surreal moment

At this point I was darting around, ducking in and out of every session to see how they were going, and it started to feel a bit surreal. This was working! Our conference was happening!! We had sessions; over 100 people had turned up; delegates were nodding, writing notes and looking interested; and my team were all in the right places and, swan-like, looking serene whilst paddling madly. This was feeling good.

Breaking out – part two

More breakout sessions from our friends at Brickwall; David Gilbert and Alison Cameron; and Blacklight Advisory; the last taking a fascinating look at culture and behavioural change using the finance sector as a case study of what can go wrong, and how to then work on putting it right with positive effects.

National Voices

Jeremy Taylor from National Voices talking at Challenge 2020

After a terrific lunch where folk could network and chat, Jeremy Taylor from National Voices gave a great talk on whether all the work going on with patients and communities is starting to have any effect, and if so how. A number of his points chimed well with mine earlier in the day (we both spoke of The Ladder of Engagement and had not coordinated our speeches at all!), so this reassured me my take on the sector and state of the health engagement agenda was on the right track.

Health and beyond

The afternoon’s sessions saw a view from beyond health with MemberWise; Electoral Reform Services talking us through the challenge of elections; and a brilliantly received session from the Learning Disability Network team at NHS England on accessibility.

King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust and The Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust then offered us two alternative perspectives on how to ‘do’ patient experience. Charlie Helps talked about reputation and risk in the boardroom, and the need to involve stakeholders and the public. And Alex Talbott, co-founder of #NHSSM, discussed how to effectively monitor social media in health… and why it’s so important today.

Staff engagement

Jess Lonsdale from Virgin Care talking at Challenge 2020

The final keynote session was a double-header from Virgin Care and NHS Employers. It was a great, insightful and positive end to the day, usefully highlighting some similarities and common threads between the public and private sectors; but also highlighting the areas where each sector can learn from each other.

Staff engagement had been mentioned regularly elsewhere throughout the day - including Julia’s speech at the start - and for me, this was one of the biggest takeaways: the need to prioritise this above all else. If staff are made to feel valued, enthused, empowered and supported, then they will love their work more. If they do that, patients do better. If that happens, the rest follows. It’s not simple to do, necessarily, but it really is as simple as this: get your house in order first, then it’s easier.

Taking the cake

The day ended with a celebration to mark our tenth anniversary as a business.

MES's tenth birthday cake made by Joanna Hawkins

Thanks to Joanna Hawkins, our Office Manager and Fine Eating Captain, for a lovely final touch.

I felt a lot of pride about my team and how far we have come; but also, it was a good exercise to take a step back and assess just where the sector itself is a decade on. A lot has been achieved, and the importance of involving patients, the public, communities and staff has never been so present in the rhetoric as it is today. The challenge now is to take that rhetoric and turn it into a central pillar of all NHS organisational activity. I’m very positive that a decade from now we will have made the same level of progress again.


As mentioned above, speakers’ presentations and a highlights video will be available soon. In the meantime, if you couldn’t make it to the event or want to revisit the day, check out our Challenge 2020 story on Storify.

Thank you to all Twitter users - both at the event and off-site - who participated in the discussion on the day. You can see all tweets from the event and continue the conversation using #c2020health.

If you work in membership and haven’t had a chance to complete our Engageometer survey, you can still do so!

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