From October 2017 to May 2018, thirteen local authorities across England took part in Design Council’s Design in the Public Sector programme funded by the Local Government Association. This past year saw diverse groups of local authorities and their partner organisations, including clinical commissioning groups, NHS Trusts, schools, GPs and VCSEs, come together to tackle some of the most important public health challenges facing our nation.

Improving patient's health before surgery in Calderdale 

Calderdale Metropolitan Borough Council recognised the growing evidence around improved health outcomes for patients who undertake lifestyle changes prior to surgery. However, it was evident from their research that issues related to smoking, physical activity and nutrition were not being systematically addressed, and that changes in lifestyle were not apparent before surgery.  Their Clinical Commissioning Group board recognised this as a priority issue and following the Local Authority's plans to recommission lifestyle support services, the Council joined Design in the Public Sector to explore how design methods could help them tackle this challenge across their health and social care system.  

Reducing unnecessary A&E visits by the over 75s in Epping Forest 

Initial research by Epping Forest District Council identified that a high number of unwell individuals over the age of 75 were presenting to A&E when they could be more effectively treated elsewhere within the system. With an extremely busy A&E department at the Princess Alexandra Hospital and limited resources to treat these patients, the Council were keen to understand the potential causes for their visits and explore the role that technology could play in addressing them. Bringing together a project team from the Council, CCG, the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, Essex Partnership Trust and One Epping Forest, they joined Design in the Public Sector to explore digital approaches to service delivery. 

Addressing high rates of teenage pregnancy amongst vulnerable groups in West Sussex 

West Sussex County Council knew their teenage pregnancy rates were not far below the national average, but had identified pockets of very high levels of pregnancies within some groups – particularly in their care leaver population. These pregnancies were placing additional stress on other services within the Council and in worst cases resulted in babies being removed from the parents' care. In addition, the Council knew their existing offers around increasing the use of contraception and preventing unwanted teenage pregnancies weren't joined–up and needed updating. Responding to these challenges, the Council joined Design in the Public Sector to improve the design, impact and effectiveness of their sexual health contraception information and services for young people, with a focus on increasing positive behaviours within their most vulnerable teenage population. 

Building social connection and community-led services to reduce social isolation in Stockport

An exponential rise in the numbers of frail older people and those living with long-term health conditions, alongside significant reductions in resources, make the health and social care system in Stockport unsustainable in its current form. The council knew that to tackle these complex issues they needed a new approach to delivering health and social services, new ways of working and collaboration with their communities and voluntary sector partners. Building on work already started in the Heatons, the team joined Design in the Public Sector to test out a community-led place-based model to tackling social isolation in the area.

In addition to the examples outlined above, the following councils also took part in the 2017-18 programme:

  • Barnsley Council
  • City of Bradford Metropolitan District Council
  • Doncaster Council
  • Huntingdonshire District Council
  • London Borough of Islington
  • London Borough of Bexley
  • North Tyneside Council
  • Sheffield City Council
  • Southwark Council

Design Council and the LGA will be following up with all teams towards the end of this year with the view to publish case studies on the impact achieved by each council.

Design in the Public Sector aims to help local authorities commission and deliver improvements to public health services. The programme builds an understanding of how design practices can enable local government professionals to shape and deliver improved services.

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News & opinion

Innovating by design with UK Science Festivals Network How can design thinking help science festivals to improve their programme and reach underserved audiences? How can design thinking help science festivals to improve their programme and reach underserved audiences?

Feature — 19/11/2018

Councils turn to design to tackle public health challenges 14 projects from 18 councils across England have been selected onto Design Council’s Design in Public Sector programme. 14 projects from 18 councils across England have been selected onto Design Council’s Design in Public Sector programme.

News — 30/10/2018

Five things we learned at Design in the Public Sector Ellen Care, Transformation and Change Officer for the London Borough of Bexley, gives us her top 5 things she will take from her time on the programme Ellen Care, Transformation and Change Officer for the London Borough of Bexley, gives us her top 5 things she will take from the programme.

Feature — 23/07/2018

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