Our conference brought together people with lived experience and those from across the health and social care sector to discuss the future.

On 1 May 2024, our annual conference, ‘Our Voice, Our Rights, Our Future,’ brought together individuals from the third sector, health and social care organisations, and people with lived experience. The day served as a platform to discuss the trajectory and future of health and social care in Scotland.

The event opened with a compelling keynote address delivered by Neil Gray, the Cabinet Secretary for NHS Recovery, Health and Social Care. Gray spoke on the indispensable role of the third sector in catalysing reform within health and social care. Notably, he highlighted the barriers preventing equitable healthcare in Scotland, with a focused lens on marginalised communities, including BAME communities, women, and deprived areas. Championing the importance of incorporating lived experience in making change, Gray emphasised the ’significance of working together to tackle health inequalities, and the importance of having people with lived experience at the centre’.

Following this discourse, a distinguished panel of experts, comprising of Professor Dame Anna Dominiczak, Chief Scientist for Health at the Scottish Government, academic GP Marianne McCallum, Director of Networking Key Services Naina Minhas, and Professor Donna Hall, delved into the intricacies of integrating lived experiences into research, innovation, and healthcare services. The panel discussed the intricacies of keeping lived experience central. They expressed how crucial they feel lived experience to be and highlighted that time and resources need to be invested to ensure meaningful involvement occurs. Key points highlighted included the imperative of co-producing health services with communities, overcoming barriers faced by ethnic minorities, and fostering seamless integration between healthcare and community services.

Throughout the day, delegates engaged in an variety of workshops showcasing co-produced and innovative projects within the third sector. Topics ranged from the role of citizen assemblies in promoting deliberative democracy to strengthening communities through collaborative partnerships. Networking sessions facilitated meaningful connections among attendees, fostering a dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences.

Creative elements were on offer throughout the day, designed to inspire and engage delegates. From the melodic tunes of Tom Binns from Glasgow Piano City to the collaborative art installation led by our artist-in-residence Xuechang Leng, delegates were encouraged to contribute to a collective vision for the future of healthcare in Scotland.

The day culminated in a thought-provoking panel discussion from Rt. Hon Henry McLeish, Kenny Moffat of the Scottish Dementia Working Group at Alzheimer Scotland, and Sara Redmond, Chief Officer at the ALLIANCE. McLeish emphasised that we must envision the kind of society that Scotland aspires to become and focus on how we can achieve this. He discussed his work as chair of the Long Term Care Commission, which holds a focus on keeping individuals within their homes and communities for as long as possible and upholding human rights within care services. Kenny Moffat provided invaluable insights drawn from his personal experience of a dementia diagnosis at the age of 50, underscoring the importance of choice and control in health and social care services. Sara Redmond echoed these sentiments, advocating for a National Care Service.

We extend our gratitude to our sponsors and exhibitors, including ABPI and Rare Revolution Magazine, whose support made our conference possible.

The day came to a close with an energising performance by the inclusive dance group Indepen-dance, a Glasgow-based dance group that brings together disabled and non-disabled people. Their vibrant performance, infused with audience participation, served as a fitting conclusion to a day marked by insightful discourse and collaborative engagement.

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