Engaging in sustainable health and care 


“92% of the public think it is important for the health system to work in a more sustainable (minimising the negative impact on the wellbeing of others and the environment) way”

– Public perceptions survey ‘Ipsos MORI’ 2015

Key to a health and care system that is fit for the future is creating a system of efficiency, quality and wise use of social, environmental and financial resources. For sustainable development to become part of everyday mentality, it is essential to engage staff, service users and the wider public to deliver improvements in patient experience and health outcomes now and in the future. 

Without engagement, the health and care system will not achieve its long term goals for delivering sustainable development and the public will not understand why action is needed. 

What is ‘engagement’? 

Engagement is not an end in itself – it’s an important lever in delivering change (in general) and improvements in patient experience and health outcomes (in health and care). Engagement in health and care is about change leaders building and maintaining a relationship – a psychological contract - with staff, patients, carers and any other stakeholders affected. 
It goes beyond passive involvement (e.g., receiving and understanding information) and leads to an active response and a level of commitment to action:

  • Two-way information provision and exchange 
  • Consultation - involving stakeholders in making decisions about the services we provide 
  • Working together/partnership/co-production on healthcare challenges

Engagement in sustainable development can be seen in three components (mirroring how workplace engagement is measured by the NHS Staff Survey):

  • How excited people are about sustainable development 
  • The extent to which people would advocate for sustainable development 
  • The extent to which people are involved in decision-making about sustainability 


Engaging staff in sustainable health and care 

Meeting the NHS challenge of continuously ensuring increasingly better care for a growing population for increasingly better value will crucially depend on whether staff see sustainability as their responsibility and feel empowered to change their practice.

 For more detail, see our engaging staff page.

Engaging service users in sustainable healthcare 

Having to deal with ill-health can trigger innovative ideas that are not obvious non-service users. By using service user experiences within commissioning and service design, we can work together to improve health outcomes and experience.

At its core, engaging with patients is integral to the NHS Constitution’s promise about involving people in decisions about their care. Service users are integral to system innovation, which in turn is essential to sustainable development in health and care. 

Patient and public engagement is beneficial in many ways: 

  • Service users can help redesign care pathways, so that they are more user-friendly and improve patient experience 
  • Involving service users in decisions about their own health and care has the potential to improve compliance with prescribed treatment, boost health outcomes and reduce unnecessary consultations
  • Understanding peoples experience of services can help you identify areas of waste and inefficiency 

Importance of public engagement is now recognised and mandated by law: