Citizen Ambassador Programme
Running since 2017 (until the end of March 2023), the Citizen Ambassador Programme was a peer-led research and engagement programme, delivered in partnership with Healthwatch Surrey to ensure its independence from the NHS.
Following five years of collaboration between Healthwatch Surrey and Surrey Heartlands ICS, our Citizen Ambassador (CA) programme will no longer be commissioned after April 2023.
As the health and care system focuses much of its delivery at the most local level, we want to focus our approach to peer research in a similar way. Working together, we are now considering the right next steps to support Surrey residents to have their say about what matters most to them as part of local neighbourhoods and places.
During its five years, our award-winning Citizen Ambassador programme saw us equip people who have diverse experiences of healthcare with qualitative research skills and enabled them to carry out focussed projects and engagements across Surrey Heartlands. The projects our CAs have delivered over the years have influenced the work of Surrey’s NHS by contributing authentic insights about Surrey’s population to those designing and delivering the services, through the themes of: mental health, digital, cancer, prevention, women and children, cardiovascular disease, muscular skeletal conditions, COVID-19 and beyond.
Through our Working with People and Communities strategy we will continue to support residents to have their say and help shape local health and care services as part of our wider strategy to improve the health of our population. We will continue to use some of the key principles of peer-led research and the valuable learning we have gained through this programme over the last few years.
For those interested in understanding how our Citizen Ambassador programme worked, the following information may be helpful.
The programme aimed to increase the reach of direct, critical and honest feedback to specific areas of our health and care system. In 2018 the programme was awarded the ‘NHS 70 Healthwatch England’ award for putting people at the heart of care.
The programme ran with between five to six citizen ambassadors, delivering projects across a range of topics including digital, mental health, prevention, cancer, urgent care, equalities and women and children. The citizen ambassadors were recruited from a range of backgrounds and were given research training to support them to carry out their roles, working up to 15 hours a month. A number of our citizen ambassadors have gone on to continue supporting the system in other ways, using the skills learnt during this programme.
Typically citizen ambassadors should be people with direct or indirect experience of the topics they are linked to, and they tend to be people with previously little or no experience of taking part in public involvement or service transformation initiatives. The purpose is to bring fresh insights into the system and act as the ‘critical friend’ to services.