By Claire West

In draft guidance published for consultation, NICE discusses how organisations need to work more closely with local people in the planning, design, development, delivery and evaluation of services and initiatives.

Evidence confirms that communities which get involved with local initiatives are more likely to see an improvement in people’s health and wellbeing.

Professor Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive and director of health and social care for NICE, said: “The NHS and local authorities cannot improve people's health and wellbeing on their own. Working with communities will lead to services that better meet local people's needs and can subsequently improve health and wellbeing and also reduce inequalities.

“Communities can be a powerful force in identifying how local services can be shaped to best serve them. The key is to give communities the best support possible to enable them to do this.”

The draft guideline comes as NICE updates its original guidance from 2008 to take into account more up-to-date evidence. It recommends a suite of recommendations to help statutory organisations (such as councils, healthcare providers and housing associations), and community and voluntary organisations place community engagement at the heart of local strategies and services.
Provisional recommendations include:

• Supporting and promoting sustainable community engagement by identifying and working with existing and new community networks and organisations, particularly those reaching vulnerable groups
• Developing a community engagement approach as an integral part of health and wellbeing initiatives
• Addressing health inequalities by ensuring communities at risk of poor health, or their representatives, are involved with local health and wellbeing initiatives.
• Considering using community health champions or other local representatives to talk to marginalised or vulnerable groups about getting involved
• Drawing on the knowledge and insight of the local community to decide which communication channels would work best as a way of getting local people interested and involved. Giving local people the support they need to take an active role in initiatives.
• Offering training and mentoring support to volunteers.