The value of co-production

Embedding co-production in service delivery and transformation. By CSP professional advisers Julie Blackburn and Helen Harte.

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What is co-production and why bother?

Co-production is not a new concept and is often referred to as a way of working which involves patients or service users, carers and healthcare staff coming together to help shape a service, system or process. The value of co-production can produce not only better outcomes, but increase job satisfaction, knowing that patients and service users have been actively listened to and involved.

People who have long-term conditions can contribute hugely to the planning and design and are best-placed to understand and know what services they want and need. Increasingly, co-production is a valued mechanism to support meaningful participation. Whether you work in education, research or practice, getting to grips with co-production will help you help you deliver best results.

The difference between co-production or participation? 

The primary difference between co-production and participation is that co-production involves people with lived experience having an equal role in both the design and delivery of a service/ project. This is different to simply making suggestions, which health professionals then decide upon.

Below are two examples of co-production that have recently been published on the innovations database. Go to the link at the end to read the full abstracts.


The WhoseShoes Coproduction event was developed to give staff, patients and the public the opportunity to shape the Guildford and Waverley integrated care system and improve services. 


Staff and people from 18 community groups were invited to the event, co-ordinated by the head of engagement and patient experience.

Those conversations resulted in 35 individual pledges to improve services. Some pledges were specific actions that require a change in delivery or service improvement. For example ‘to help people living with diabetes to administer insulin/metformin without guessing’. 

While other pledges were about changing organisational culture and behaviour. For example, ‘taking the time to understand goals and motivations, rather than enforcing what I think is best’. 


The Talkback project delivered a co-designed educational resource for people with low back pain. The resource was designed to facilitate positive thinking and behaviour change to support physiotherapy management. 

Talkback is a series of linked resources that are available throughout the patient journey. The resources use active learning strategies, easy to understand explanations and provide opportunities for people to relate the information to their own circumstances and create a personal action plan. 

The team, based in Sheffield, used the creative co-design approach developed by the National Institute of Health Research Collaborations for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Yorkshire and Humber.

The creative co-design process creates practical, implementable solutions owned by all stakeholders. Using this coproduction methodology, Talkback meets the needs of patients, staff and the service. 

The Talkback resource is adaptable to context and personal situation, evidence based and easy to integrate into current standard practice.

How do I get started?

Within any service or project that would benefit from co-production, the question of where to start is often tricky. The following tips may help the initial stages when thinking about co-production:

  1. Establish whether your organisation has a service user group that you could link in with. If not, think about how to start establishing a small patient/service user group and any support needed with this.
  2. What is the governance process regarding setting up a new patient/service user group? You may want to contact your local governance team initially and find out more information.
  3. What is the purpose of the group? When setting up any group, clear communication is essential to the people within the group so they are aware of the progression of the project.

Avoid common pitfalls

It can be easy to call upon patients or service users that are already well known to a particular service, however it is worth thinking about how people are recruited to a patient or service user group and making sure it is as inclusive as possible. This will result in much better outcomes and avoids the risk of hearing the same voice or opinion. 

It would also be useful to ask yourself whether the group fully represents the patient population. 

Find out more

The CSP’s Professional Advice Service team gives advice and support to members on complex and specialist enquiries about physiotherapy practice, including professional practice issues, standards, values and behaviours, international working, service design and commissioning, and policy in practice. 

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