How “closing the loop” empowers Lived Experience Partners and ensures project success

July 8, 2024

Just over a year after joining the HIN, Lived Experience Partners (LEPs) Faith Smith and Aurora Todisco reflect on one vital step of involving people and communities in health and care projects that is often neglected: ‘closing the loop’. The concept of 'closing the loop' refers to informing people who have contributed to projects about the outcomes and future of the work they have been part of.

Healthcare innovations can be greatly improved by involving the voices of patients at all stages, through true co-production openly and transparently. This is a great step towards tackling the various health inequalities that are still too present in our systems.

Our role as Lived Experience Partners (LEPs) serves to drive the work of the HIN and their partners towards equity in accessing health and social care services, while championing the voices of the people who live, work and access services in south London.

Over the past year, we seen that (alongside project managers) we have a pivotal role to play in how we 'close the loop' as projects reach important milestones or draw to a close. Closing the loop is essential for building trust with lived experience contributors and wider communities, demonstrating that the voice of experience has informed and guided the final outcomes of the work in question. Ensuring a summary of the difference their involvement has made and any outputs are shared with Experts by Experience is a key step that is often forgotten.

Many of the insights we've gained will also be valuable to other stakeholders seeking to maintain relationships with the people and communities who have contributed to their work.

The power of plain speaking

To ensure that project outcomes and learnings are accessible to all, we work very hard to remove jargon as much as possible in our external communications. NHS projects can often be acronym heavy. These tend to mean something to health professionals but very little to most patients or service users. The complex language of the NHS can often be a real barrier to engaging communities in projects – especially those groups with lower health literacy who often face the largest health inequalities.

Our role is to help provide a bridge between NHS jargon and normal language. Over the past year, we have achieved this by assisting with creating easy-to-read versions of project outcomes to ensure accessibility of the content for public sharing. Recently we helped to create a “plain English” summary for our website of a large, complex report looking at patient perspectives of digital-first primary care – helping to 'close the loop' for the thousands of patients across London who had contributed to the work.

Additionally, we can support project leads in meetings and make sure things are said more clearly and straightforwardly so that lived experience contributors understand and can participate in relevant discussions. Being staff members means we can tackle power imbalances with more confidence – being able to challenge our colleagues if we feel something is not being communicated in a clear way.

Planning to succeed

One of the benefits of being part of the HIN is that we can advise on the design of projects at their earliest stage – when a project is being planned or scoped out.

This means that 'closing the loop' can be built into projects effectively, and that we can make sure the people and communities who contribute to the project are being communicated with fairly and effectively.

Making use of our networks

Finally, our own individual networks can help us to connect the work of the HIN with the communities it serves. We both have extensive experience with involvement activities across health and care, and this has helped us to establish a network of community groups, patients and professionals who can help us spread the word about the outcomes of our work.

Social and digital media also offer important avenues for sharing updates on projects. We’ve been heavily involved in setting up the HIN’s involvement newsletter – Partners with People – and we’ve seen great engagement with it from people from a wide range of backgrounds. Once again, these all show people and communities how much our work is valued and the ongoing impact of our contributions to projects.

Finally, LEPs can champion the HIN South London’s approach to involvement and relevant projects in external spaces. As LEPs, we have been invited to several external conferences either to speak or attend, such as the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare. We’ve also written for publications such as the HSJ – stressing just how important we feel involvement is for the future of health and care.


Respect for the people we involve in our work is a fundamental requirement of sustainable involvement activities. Being able to show patients, carers and communities the value of their contributions to projects is especially vital if we want to encourage underserved communities to work with us to tackle longstanding and complex health inequalities.

Nurturing relationships with non-professionals takes time and effort. While our role as LEPs is often to play an important part in building these relationships, it should be a priority for any project manager who is involving people or communities in their work. Our ask is that we collectively make sure we don’t 'fall at the last hurdle' – let’s focus on closing the loop and making sure we finish projects with the same spirit of involvement that they often start with.

Find out more

If you would like to know more about our involvement work and lived experience partners, please get in touch.

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