More than 200 professionals from across the county along with Surrey parents and carers took part in an event in Dorking to work together to plan how to provide the best start in life for Surrey’s children.

Led by Trudy Mills, Surrey Heartlands’ Strategy Lead for Women and Children’s workstream, and Dave Hill, Executive Director for Children, Families, Lifelong learning and culture at Surrey County Council, the event was part of a programme to improve the First 1,000 days of a child’s life. Lucy Browne, Citizen Ambassador for Women and Children’s Services, also supported the conference.

The Citizen Ambassador role was developed as part of the Academy’s citizen engagement programme and Lucy’s role includes listening to the experiences and views of local women and their families about the care they receive during the First 1,000 Days.

Some key themes emerged, including:

  • Clear information and advice is needed during and after pregnancy, and into the early years
  • There’s a need for consistent advice from all health care professionals
  • Parents need realistic expectations of what their first month will be like, along with practical advice
  • There’s a perceived lack of communication between professionals
  • More time is needed during GP and Health Visitor checks-ups
  • Frequently mothers report not feeling listened to.

The information from the event will be used to shape future plans and will link into improvements already in underway, such as the Better Births programme.

The Academy Engagement and Social Research team is also supporting the Women and Children’s workstream with the Co-Lab game to help co-design their engagement work. This is a gamified tool developed by Rich Stockley for Surrey Heartlands, supported by the UCL Centre for Co-production in Health Research and NHS England, to help better planning and co-creation and engagement with citizens, partners and their workforce. It aims to help teams to better focus on the core objectives of co-creation exercises and enables equal participation from everyone involved.

Players start by placing a counter on the first of seven sections, the project lead presents the project brief and as a group, all the players discuss what they believe are the most important aims and objectives. Once this is agreed, all players – who all have equal decision-making powers – move their counter on to the next section. The game is ‘won’ is when every player has their counter at the end section.

By the end of the game, there should be agreement among the players on the aims of the engagement, the project parameters, research questions to be addressed, which participants should be prioritised and which methods should be used to engage them. The game also provides a ‘roadmap’ which builds in accountability, giving players tasks to complete after the game, ensuring that what is discussed in the game session is followed through.

Said Sarah Parker: “This is a really innovative way of co-designing engagement work and it is exciting to see it being used already within the Women and Children’s workstream to help plan their engagement event.”