Co-production and collaboration can improve healthcare

Working in partnership with patients offers huge potential to address health and social inequalities, says the BMA patient liaison group

Location: UK
Last reviewed: 9 June 2022

Co-production forms the foundation of safe, effective, inclusive, accessible, and efficient healthcare. It is the collaborative practice of clinicians, researchers, policymakers, health system managers and other professionals, working in authentic partnership with patients and the public to improve health outcomes. Adopting co-production processes is important across all stages (creation, design, delivery, evaluation, feedback etc) of healthcare planning and policy, care and treatment, education, research, publication, and funding processes.

As a result of the COVID pandemic, we have seen a decline in the commitment to co-production. It is critical that we re-establish greater prominence across all health and social care systems.

Co-production builds upon the principles of person-centred care and communication, where the knowledge and expertise of people with lived experience are valued and respected equally. It requires a collaborative setting with clear aims and objectives and authentic, early engagement with all stakeholders. In balancing several perspectives, it is often an iterative process, requiring a culture of openness and honesty, humility and understanding for all involved. When working well, it is a mutually beneficial and highly rewarding process for staff and patients.

A commitment to co-production with ALL groups in society is essential to meaningfully address health and social inequity. Many marginalised groups have lost trust in our healthcare systems, and we must create safe, inclusive spaces for people to feel comfortable contributing to collaborative working. Trust is needed for – but also a product of – successful co-production.

In short, it involves power-sharing, trust, reciprocity, and relationship building.

The potential positive impact of co-production on patients, the public, medical professional bodies and trade unions remains underexplored. However, co-production offers significant benefits to organisations and their membership.

The BMA PLG (patient liaison group) is co-writing a paper with CMA Patient Voice which aims to address this gap in the literature. A recent report by Unions 21, Using Data to Build Strong Unions, highlights the importance of user experience in informing and enhancing union policy, and for the BMA, co-production facilitates better support for the challenges facing doctors.  

For almost 20 years, PLG has provided the BMA with an informed patient view on matters of interest to patients and the medical profession. There are so many opportunities for increased co-production with PLG across the BMA’s work, and we look forward to working with staff and members to co-create a strategy for how that might look.

One example of where co-production is working well is the BMA PLG patient information awards. Each stage of the process involves authentic co-production. The event planning and organisation are collaboratively produced between representatives from staff, membership, PLG, chief officers and the board of directors. Co-production is a core requirement for resources submitted to the awards. The event is co-hosted by chief officers and PLG, and collaboration with all stakeholders continues through event evaluation and feedback into subsequent events.

With these issues in mind, the BMA PLG is looking forward to celebrating this year’s longlist, shortlist, and overall awards winner at the virtual awards ceremony on Friday, 10 June. I hope you will join me at the event to celebrate their successes, and learn more about the incredible impact that charities, patient groups and trusted patient information sources are making on the lives of patients everywhere.

PLG viewpoints on co-production summarised by Chrissie Douglass