You think you need help to get your service change project delivered, but how do you choose the right consultancy to help you?
Budgets are tight and timelines short for NHS service change project managers and programme directors. Getting the right strategic advice and expert delivery you get provided by the right specialist patient and public engagement consultants will play a pivotal role in managing your programme to a successful conclusion.
Do you even need external support?
Our NHS organisations are full to the brim with experienced patient involvement and public engagement professionals. Look around you and you’re sure to find a team who are at the top of their game. Of course, there are all sorts of reasons why they might not take the job on. They might not be familiar with the latest service change requirements. It might be some time since they led a service change involvement exercise. Or they might simply be too busy with other things to take it on. If they can’t help directly, at least you’ll have some internal experts to help you choose the right external consultants to support you.
If you do need external support, these six things will help you choose the right patient and public engagement consultants.
- Be clear about your objectives
NHS service change can be a daunting process. Being able to describe the outcomes you’re aiming for will mean the right agency will understand your business objective and help you understand how to get there. If they aren’t asking you lots of difficult questions about your programme objective, they probably aren’t the right consultants for you.
- Are they specialists in service change?
Anyone can turn their hand to NHS service change and it might go okay. We think it’s important that you get support from people who really know their stuff. People who can spot problems before they arise and whose work won’t leave you and your team hanging out to dry in front of a court, or facing a critical review by the Secretary of State.
- Have they got recent experience?
The legal and regulatory requirements for NHS service change are complex and continuously evolving. It’s one thing being able to quote the guidance documents, and another thing entirely to understand how to apply it among the operational pressures that most service change programmes find themselves under.
- Do they have a successful track record?
Check them out. Most good agencies or consultancies are proud of the work they do and shout about it. Look for case studies and testimonials that demonstrate a solid understanding of the challenges of service change and how to overcome them. Google them. Look at any news stories they feature in.
- What are their charges and payment terms?
Your budget will be the biggest consideration in how much you spend. Consultancies charge for their services in different ways. Some charge per hour. Sometimes they charge a fixed rate per project. Sometimes it’s a pre-agreed plan of work covered by a monthly retainer. All of those approaches are workable. Shop around and choose the one that suits you most. Be aware that some agencies will be more flexible than others in adapting to the inevitable bumps you’ll experience in the project road. Some will quote a price that allows them to flex and absorb many of those bumps. Some will charge extra for everything they do that’s not detailed in the original project scope. If anything about the payment terms strikes you as odd, for example we’ve known consultancies wanting the whole fee or large amounts of it upfront before they do any work, then they probably aren’t the supply partner for you.
- Can you trust them?
This sounds like a harsh question, but after the technical considerations, it’s an important factor. You have to know you can work with these people. You’re choosing a team to support you for at least a few months and, on a big programme, possibly as much as several years. Talk to them about their approach to work and the values that they hold themselves to and you’ll soon get an idea about whether you’ll be able to trust them and work well with them.
Blog by: Paul Parsons