Care Quality Commission (CQC) is an independent regulator of health and social care in England. The organisation uses its voice to share views on quality issues in the sector. Staying up-to-date on what is going on in the field, being informed by a variety of perspectives and testing solutions is at the core of their service. At the start of 2019 CQC, therefore, decided to gather this input from communities across England via an online participation platform.

The objective behind the platform was clear from the start: gain insights into the needs and issues in health and social care. To reach this goal it is vital to get ample and diverse perspectives via the platform and understand which communities may still be missing. To know which target groups were reached, CQC asked relatively detailed personal information at the signup, like whether they are caretakers or not or if they have a disability. Users were always provided with an option to not answer these questions.

With regards to transparency, CQC clearly states on the platform why these questions are asked: “We collect data so that we can better understand how any policy changes would impact specific segments of the population. It’s also about understanding who we are hearing from on the platform, and understanding which groups we may need to hear from via other engagement methods.”

Moreover, by having users fill out these questions, CQC retrieved the possibility to involve people in projects relevant to their profile.

Despite asking relatively a lot of personal data, the sign-ups took off straight from the launch: in only six months the platform had reached over 2.300 registrations – a number that has only been growing since. CQC also made work of using the platform sufficiently by launching a record number of 38 projects. Even though the engagement level per project differs, CQC utilises the functionalities to the fullest by having multiple active projects and segmenting the target audience per project via the automated user-groups.

One of the recent consultations by CQC via the platform was on digitalising more of their surveys. Via this questionnaire, which had an average completion time of only 4 minutes, CQC easily gained insights into how people want to be consulted and if this is suitable for all services.

Aside from the many survey consultations, CQC furthermore utilised its platform to gather input in the form of ideas. The organisation wrote guidance called ‘Registering the right support’, which explains best practice when developing service for people with a learning disability and/or autism. Via a project on the platform, CQC consulted all registered users to share experiences on how this guidance could be improved. 

Via the various online participation projects, CQC found an easy and effortless way to gain more insights into the quality of health and social care in England. Moreover, the organisation utilises the platform to the fullest via many and continuously adding new projects, keeping the users engaged and informed. Via the segmentation of groups, CQC has a clear understanding of which groups are represented in these results, and which aren’t. The result? CQC can spend its time more efficiently by engaging with the underrepresented groups offline.

“It has meant we can engage with more people, more frequently and people have an opportunity to engage with us 24/7 in a way that is flexible – which is what they have been telling us they want for a while. The added value which will soon be realised is that the platform allows us to spend more of our time on face-to-face engagement with people that are unable to engage digitally.”

Grace Taylor, CQC Public Engagement Team

[The latest update of this case study dates from January 2020]