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We have committed to growing our understanding of what matters to our staff and our patients, to help us begin to build a genuine Community of Practice around our GP Practice, Benfield Valley Healthcare Hub (BVHH). We have been asking local residents a series of questions taken from Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) initiatives to find out what matters to them, and help us shape the offers from our Practice in response to that need. We used the same questions to create “What Matters Walls” in both staff and waiting rooms for staff and patients to feedback by writing on the posters. Then, we decided to start growing the one-to-one conversations we had been holding in our Practice waiting rooms by inviting our patients, staff, and local citizens to join us for a party…

BVHH hosted its first Community Party on Saturday 10 February 2018; opening its doors to the community for an afternoon of tea, cake and social connection. The Practice’s waiting room was transformed with bunting made by the neighbouring children at Footsteps Nursery and a pop-up cafe on the reception desk with cakes generously donated by Boundi Cafe, BVHH and our party guests.

Guests were welcomed by a BVHH patient member of the party organisation group and a cup of tea. People introduced themselves one-to-one and we all shared our reasons for attending the party, before reflecting on what we had heard with the wider group. These reasons included:

  • Making a difference;
  • Feeling more connected;
  • Building a community; and
  • Wanting to support the Practice

BVHH shared its vision of becoming more integrated in its local community; working together with citizens and community partners to make a real difference. We heard stories of other GP Practices’ successful work with communities to improve the lives of local people, including Bromley-by-Bow in London and Robin Lane in Yorkshire.

We heard that people’s connection with their local community is the number one factor for happiness. This correlates with worldwide research that social integration (i.e. how much you interact with people as you move through your day) is one of the strongest predictors of how long someone will live.

We spoke about what matters to us and our community and captured our responses and intentions in a collage of post-it notes. It became apparent that, as a group, we held a shared concern about isolation and loneliness in current society.

We discussed the offers that had been made, and identified three initial areas to focus our energies on together:

  • Exploring the scope of Community Circles, and further opportunities for volunteering;
  • Finding out what matters to local teenagers;
  • Building a partnership with Portslade Library.

Our conversations continued over a community lunch, which included food contributions from attendees and local branches of Iceland, Tesco and Waitrose. Thanks to the generosity of our sponsors and guests, we were also able to provide dinner for the residents of the Brighton Mobile Night Shelter – a charity run by the homeless for the homeless.

After the party, BVHH decided to continue testing a revised waiting room layout to see if it encouraged new conversations. We also decided to keep up the bunting.

The attendees from our first Benfield Community supported our intention to host a second party at our Burwash site in Hangleton to explore our intentions further, and ensure all local residents had an equal opportunity to share what mattered to them (in recognition of poor transport links in the local area). We welcomed local residents and representatives from voluntary and community groups to join us for tea and cake in our waiting room during the afternoon of 22 February 2018 (as the Practice is usually closed on Thursday afternoons). Themes and offers shared during our conversations reflected those from the first party, with the addition of transport being highlighted as something that mattered to the people living around Burwash. We agreed to explore this as a fourth area of focus to supplement the three areas from the initial party, with support from local community groups.

We are looking forward to growing our conversations and continuing to work together to create great things as Benfield Community, and intend to host a further event in Spring 2018. If you are interested in finding out more or joining the mailing list for future Benfield Community events, please get in touch with Katie via 07483116208 or email here.benfieldcommunity@nhs.net or follow our #BenfieldCommunity hashtag on Twitter.

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