The NHS has a national plan to make big quality improvements to local services, such as  asthma, epilepsy and mental health, for the children and young people that use them.

Regional teams have been set up to deliver this, and NHS Midlands approached Participation People for the expertise to deliver this objective, specifically with enlisting young people to hear from them about what they need from local NHS services. The goal was to embed young people in the decision-making, ensure that their voices are listened to, and that young people’s experiences and opinions were used to inform decision makers.

The initial project addressed local service delivery for young people with diabetes, and needed to bring together the different perspectives of young people and the senior staff who designed the service, clinicians, patients and the wider public.


The first step was to recruit a diverse team of young people from the area, with at least half of these experienced in using diabetes services. Recruitment assets were created and seeded through relevant networks, local groups and social media. 

PP then set up a team of 15 Young Inspectors to truly get under the skin of diabetes services in the Midlands. Each took part in 4-6 training sessions to upskill and prepare them for the project. Then the taskforce was briefed to find out what young people really want from their local NHS diabetes service, identify what was and was not working from current services. Particular focus was to be paid on the transition from paediatric diabetes health care to adult care and how youth friendly this process was. 

 The Young Inspectors reached out to all practitioners involved in diabetes care in the area (hospitals, clinicians, nurses, and GPs) to participate, across a very wide region, with an approach which spanned site visits, in-person meetings and  sessions, training reviews with young people, data analysis, desktop research and mystery shops.

Data gathered from each of these methods was analysed by the group, cross-referencing their qualitative findings with insight from the professionals behind the services, to identify any conflicts or gaps. 

Logistically, this was not without challenges, due to the vast network and huge amount of  effort involved in contacting the correct point people at each hospital and then booking time slots that could be facilitated across both sides. The project also required a vast amount of data gathering which the Young Inspectors then needed to refine into an actionable insights report that could be used to make a real difference to young users of diabetes services. 

To summarise their experience with NHS Midlands, the Youth Inspectors also created a bank of digital artwork to share as part of their key findings report.


The Young Inspectors visited seven different sites across the Midlands, spoke to 23 clinicians and heard from 60 young people, and secured a number of significant findings and issues which they were able to make useful actionable recommendations on. 

These were tiered into ‘big budget’ changes, ‘low budget’ changes, and ‘changes that could be made tomorrow’ to create an action plan that could be implemented at a realistic pace over time. The recommendations ranged from ensuring patients have access to robust psychological support throughout transition and into the Adult service, to suggesting a 24/7 access to a Diabetes Specialist Nurse to support with questions. Each of these was based on data and insight to make a clear business case.


Kate Branchett – Children and Young People Programme Director, NHS England – Midlands Region

“Participation People brought so much enthusiasm and their energy really resonated with our team. They work at pace and seem to have an ethos of ‘everything is possible’ – which was refreshing – plus they have a genuine drive to help young people be better understood.

PP are brilliant at engaging with young people – they taught us to slow down – stop and think, not assume we know the answer, which meant we came to the right solutions, rather than the easiest ones. Absolutely get them on board, they are brilliant.”

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