Westco - Blog images-Mar-28-2023-02-07-37-1653-PM


Across Hertfordshire and West Essex, organisations and individuals from the NHS, local government, public services and the community and voluntary sector are working together to bring about improvements in health and wellbeing.


To support this work, the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Partnership (ICP) has been formed to bring together the organisations involved with supporting the 1.5 million population of the area. The partnership includes representatives from the NHS, county, district and borough councils, care providers, the police, Healthwatch Essex and Hertfordshire, and the voluntary and community sector. Every area in England has its own Integrated Care Partnership, and every partnership has to put together a strategy to achieve better health and well-being for its population over the next 10 years.

The ICP had a draft 10-year strategy they wished to share with representative organisations that work to improve health and care in Hertfordshire and West Essex, to ensure that the views of the people they represent and serve were fed into the developing strategy. 

The problem 

To ensure the ICP could facilitate an environment which supports healthy, happy and independent living for all groups in the area, there was a need to understand the views of those who find it particularly hard to stay healthy and well. The voices of these people aren’t always heard when plans and decisions are made. The ICP needed to engage with those who represent these harder-to-reach communities, to ensure that the views of these people were fed into the developing 10-year strategy.  The groups of particular interest were people living in poverty, children and young people, inclusion health groups and people from Black, Asian, or other minority ethnic groups.

The other core audience the ICP wanted to engage in the development of the strategy were staff working in Hertfordshire and West Essex from across the NHS (both clinical and non-clinical), local authorities and other public sectors, voluntary and community sector and social care. As staff would be responsible for helping to deliver the strategy, it was vital their views on the draft were gathered.

There was a small timeframe to gather insight from these two audiences, the research had to be designed, fielded, and reported on within a 4-week timeframe. 

The solution 

The research approach was two-fold, using both qualitative and quantitative methods. 

Engaging representatives of higher need/header to reach communities 

The most appropriate approach for this audience was to run online focus groups. Westco’s research team worked closely with the client to design the discussion guide for the focus groups. Westco sought to understand the key objectives for the groups to ensure the design of the discussion guide would deliver on these.  

Hertfordshire and West Essex ICP identified and introduced relevant stakeholders to Westco who handled recruitment to the groups. Westco contacted all participants to encourage attendance and sent reminder emails prior to the discussions. Where participants were unable to attend the relevant focus group, they were offered alternative slots or follow-up depth interviews to ensure that their feedback could be incorporated. 

Engaging staff 

The most appropriate channel for engaging staff was via an online survey. Westco designed the survey questionnaire in partnership with the client and we worked together to find ways to make the survey short to complete, considering how busy the target audience are. Westco set up the survey, tested it and hosted it on the smartsurvey platform. 

The results

Focus Groups 

Westco conducted four online focus groups with stakeholders, who work with or otherwise represent seldom heard communities in Hertfordshire and West Essex. Each group brought together representatives who work closely with specific groups including, ethnic minorities, children and young people, people living in poverty, and a general inclusion group. Subsequent online depth interviews were conducted for stakeholders who were unable to attend these discussions to ensure their views were captured.

Overall, 23 stakeholders from 15 different organisations took part in either a focus groups or depth interview online via Microsoft Teams over three working days. The platform was also used to record and transcribe the discussions. Transcriptions were subsequently validated by the facilitator of each group.

Westco’s Research Team facilitated the focus groups via Teams. We then analysed the feedback, using framework and thematic analysis methods and formed a narrative on the themes coming from the research. We sent summary notes and quotes within three days of each group taking place so the client could see what feedback was coming in quickly for them to feed into updates on the strategy.

We then delivered a detailed report on the findings, within a week of the final group taking place. Then report provided rich insights and bought the findings to life via the use of verbatim quotes to illustrate key points in the commentary of the report. 


759 people working in Hertfordshire and West Essex for organisations involved in Health and Wellbeing responded to the survey. Hertfordshire and West Essex ICP sent emails to those eligible to take part in the survey throughout the fieldwork period.

Westco analysed the data and reported back on the findings across all respondents and among different groups of staff. This included analysis of open comment questions where we read each comment and created a codeframe to enable comments to be quantified so the client could see common themes emerging.  The full report was delivered within 10 working days of the survey closing.

The analysis and feedback from the survey and focus groups enabled some changes to be made to the strategy, making it even more relevant and tailored for the local area.


“We had a very tight timeframe to gather views about the priorities for our integrated care strategy. The team at Westco responded quickly to our requests and helped us meet the challenging timetable. The team worked to understand our brief and were very responsive to our changing needs and particular demands. They were professional at all times and delivered exactly what we needed.” 

- Juliet Rodgers, Associate Director, Communications and Engagement, NHS Herts and West Essex ICB.

Need assistance with your Research Strategy? 

Our research and engagement practice has a track record of assisting local authorities across the UK who work with local communities to navigate change. Contact us and let's talk about how we can assist you. 


Jen Compton - Research Director

Jen Compton has over 15 years of experience in research and customer insights. She has worked across different sectors, including engagement and data analytics methodologies in the public and charity sectors. As the Director of Research at Westco, she's developed specialised expertise in the local government research arena. Jen has worked on campaigns with various audiences, including leisure, sports, housing infrastructure, and social services.

thumbnail_Jen Compton



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