Devo Manc - who, what, why, when, how?

I was really taken aback last weekend when the neighbour that I was talking to over the garden fence questioned me as I mentioned the acronym Devo Manc. Who, what, why, when, how were the combination of questions that followed, as I systematically tried to explain (with my limited amount of knowledge) what it stood for, what the aims, timescales etc are for the programme.

I know that in the NHS we are renowned for the number of acronyms that we use on a daily basis (without even realising), but I genuinely thought that this one – the shortened name for the largest system-wide initiative to integrate all public sector services and enhance health and well-being across Greater Manchester, was now a common place phrase. Clearly not!

But this also got me thinking. Why does someone living in Greater Manchester, who admittedly works in the private sector, but who travels using public transport every day to the centre of Manchester, not know anything about Devo Manc, or have not even heard of it?

It is nearly two months now since devolved responsibility for health and social care budgets for Greater Manchester was passed to Manchester City Council and the Devo Manc team, and has been 12 months in the making. But what do I, either as a resident of Greater Manchester, or as someone working within the healthcare arena, truly know about Devo Manc? Well the answer is a lot less than I feel that I should do by now.

I have spoken to lots of people over the past 12+ months and been to lots of events, and everyone is saying the same – either that they don’t know what Devo Manc is, or how it will work and impact on them, how they should or could be contributing to it, or that it feels like a ‘done-to’. That all decision making around new models of care etc has been taken out of people’s hands and been taken underground/behind closed doors – making it feel like a closed shop.

But then I think back, what have I seen or heard across the local or national media about the initiative? Well not a lot. And really the only coverage that I have seen revolves around the development of strategies and plans – but what does that look or feel like for the average person on the street in Greater Manchester? Not a lot.

Devo Manc was the perfect opportunity to radically do things differently. It itself, is the most radical approach ever been undertaken across public, private and voluntary and community sectors, so the communication, engagement and involvement activities should have reflected that approach.

Two-way internal communications between public sector agencies should be the bed rock of activity – encouraging interest, excitement, engagement and involvement, to ensure that everyone knows what is going on and feels as though they genuinely are a part of the programme from the start, with a vital role to play in its success. It should also start to encourage and facilitate better working relationships and understanding between agencies, to finally put an end to the historic division between health and social care.

A new relationship between public, voluntary and community services, communities and businesses should also be developed - one that encourages and facilitates shared decision making, democratic accountability and voice, genuine co-production and joint delivery of services. A do with, not to approach.

This should be a true ground-up engagement programme. After all, the thinking behind it is that it brings ‘power to a more local level’. Therefore co-production using staff and public feedback should be the backbone to the truly innovative initiative.

Everyone should by now know what Devo Manc is and should know the answer to all the questions around Devo – who, what, when, why, how, even at a basic level, and have been an intrinsic part in its development if so desired.

People want to be taken on a journey – to be a part of the journey – and to own the outcome. If not, it will all fall over at the end.