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Partnering with consumers is key to driving improvements in healthcare for all Victorians. Consumers have first-hand experience in the healthcare system and provide unique feedback that should be incorporated into all levels of the health system.

This guide provides information for government bodies who want to partner and engage with healthcare consumer representatives.

We’ve identified three general stages for consumer participation:

1. Plan
2. Prepare
3. Proceed

1. Plan

The key to effective consumer partnering is a well-designed plan with clear goals and outcomes. This might involve:

  • contacting the Health Issues Centre
  • researching consumer engagement
  • setting clear goals and outcomes.

When planning to engage a consumer representative, ask your team the following questions:

  • What skills, knowledge and experience are needed?
  • How will I recruit?
  • What are my timeframes?
  • What special provisions do I need to make so consumers from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences can participate?

Useful resources to help you plan

The Health Issues Centre (HIC) can help plan your engagement strategy and connect you with consumers.  Register your interest to connect with a consumer representative or download an overview of consumer participation

Download the Department of Health and Human Services’:

Consumers should be paid for their time

Safer Care Victoria and the Victorian Government have guidelines in place that ensure public organisations pay consumer representatives for their time. These costs should be factored into your budget and engagement strategy. 

Read our guide to consumer remuneration or the whole-of-government guidelines

Consumers shouldn't work alone

We recommend that all working groups have at least two consumers. This helps to support the consumer and provide additional perspectives.

2. Prepare

Make sure your organisation is ready for your planned engagement strategy by:

  • drafting reference materials
  • recruiting consumers
  • establishing a consumer contact for the organisation
  • onboarding consumers with human resources
  • preparing orientation materials.

Before you start recruiting...

You should have a clearly defined role and description of what is required from consumers. 

Download our Recruiting consumer representatives checklist.

Or read more recruitment advice from the Health Issues Centre.

You will need to prepare reference materials for the role, including:

  • expression of Interest
  • position descriptions
  • terms of reference (for a committee or working group)

Read this guide to drafting terms of reference

Have clear processes in place

During the recruitment process, you should provide:

  • clear selection criteria and timeframes
  • regular contact
  • feedback for unsuccessful candidates and respectful communication 
  • a written offer to successful candidates (this can be as simple as an email).

Preparing for your new starter

Remuneration

When setting consumers up for remuneration, you have two choices:

  • External suppliers through general expense claims. This method is best for short-term and single events.
  • Internal staff members through payroll. This is the preferred option for multiple events and long-term engagement.  

Human resource documents, documents such as tax file declaration, police check and superannuation choice forms are some of the common documents you may need to provide to your consumers. 

Download Remunerating consumers: a guide for government.

Orientation pack

You should also prepare an orientation pack, including information such as:

  • how and when they will be paid
  • contact information for the organisation and committee members
  • background information on the committee they are joining
  • information on meeting locations and security access
  • conflict of interest declarations
  • confidentiality requirements.

See this example orientation kit which can easily be adapted.

3. Proceed

Now that your consumer partnership is active you may like to consider:

  • professional development
  • connecting your consumers
  • evaluating goals and outcomes.

Professional development for consumers

Training is an important way to support consumers and show you value them.

View Health Issues Centre courses.

Connecting your consumers

Keep in mind consumer representatives are often the only non-clinical or non-organisational member of committees.  This can be a bit isolating, so we recommend connecting them with other consumers who are working with your service.

Or check out the Health Issues Centre's Consumers Connect page.

Supporting your staff to work with consumers

View Health Issues Centre training for health staff

Do you have feedback about this guide?

This guide is under development. If you have any feedback, please get in touch.

Page last updated: 28 Feb 2020

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