Generic selectors
Exact matches only
Search in title
Search in content
Post Type Selectors
Join Now


Reflections on Consumer Involvement in the Canberra Hospital Expansion Project

Published: 2023

This report documents the experience and reflections of consumer representatives, community organisation representatives, and HCCA staff on their involvement in the Canberra Hospital Expansion Project (CHEP). It captures the process, experience, and learnings of participation from a consumer/ community organisation perspective, with the intention of informing future consumer participation in health infrastructure projects.

From September 2019 until mid-2024 HCCA has been funded by Major Projects Canberra (MPC) to provide advice and the facilitation of consumer input to the Canberra Hospital Expansion Project (CHEP). The project is a $600 million investment to construct a new Critical Services Building on the Canberra Hospital campus.

There were several concurrent mechanisms for consumer participation in this project. The CHEP Consumer Reference Group (CRG) was established to provide guidance and advice through the design and construction phases of CHEP. Members of the group included HCCA, Carers ACT, Mental Health Consumer Network, the ACT Disability Reference Group, Ministerial Multicultural Advisory Council ACT and community representatives. The group met regularly and was chaired by HCCA.

At the beginning of the work, HCCA held three large, broad-ranging focus groups with a diverse invitation list of consumers and consumer organisation representatives. A fourth topic was also canvassed with consumer interviews and written input only. This helped us to make sure consumer representatives were informed by broad perspectives as they began their roles. In addition to this, there were three additional focus groups held throughout the project to provide input into specific consumer-facing aspects of the design. These were planned and co-hosted by HCCA and Major Projects Canberra.

Consumers were also members of selected clinical user groups. These are a series of design meetings where stakeholders progressively refine the design of a specific clinical or non-clinical area of a larger building.

This project began in an environment of change. A new government department, Major Projects Canberra, was only months old and oversaw the building of the Canberra Hospital Expansion Project. HCCA and MPC did not have a shared history of working together. Both needed to build relationships to support participation throughout the life of this project and develop a shared understanding of the value of consumer participation and its mechanisms. It took time to build relationships and shared processes that worked well for the project and the people involved on all sides. Consumers needed to learn about the roles of the different government and non-government partners, the parameters of the project the design process and guidelines that would shape it. Meanwhile, our project partners learned about consumer participation and how to support consumer input into the design work.

Despite a slow start, over the course of the project, consumer representatives involved in CHEP successfully advocated for many design elements that go beyond what is required by the Australasian Health Facility Guidelines. Major areas of influence include greater accessibility for people with disabilities, safer and more comfortable family and carer spaces, better signage and wayfinding and dementia friendly design.

HCCA has distilled the following guidance for future projects from both our staff’s experience and the feedback provided by consumer participants during interviews for this report:

  1. Provide flexibility in how consumers participate: Encourage project partners to consider a range of different mechanisms for participation and support consumers to choose.
  2. Include site visits to help consumer understanding of projects, and in-person meetings to consider project aspects such as finishes fittings, furniture, room layouts etc.
  3. Provide training/ induction of project staff to consumer participation, the value it brings and how HCCA can coordinate consumer participation to improve design
  4. Pursue diverse representation of community to participate in infrastructure projects
  5. Provide infrastructure-specific training for consumer participants:
    1. Provide information about who the different government players are and what their specific roles in the project are.
    2. This includes Major Projects Canberra (MPC), Canberra Health Services (CHS), the ACT Health Directorate (ACTHD), as well as the various contractors and what they do.
    3. Include information about the AusHFG and other relevant guidance on design
  6. Ensure that consumers are provided with an understanding of the project timeline, which includes when opportunities for input will be available on different aspects of the project.
  7. Guide consumers’ expectations of the work that they will be doing, as well as the timeframes and decision-making process involved. Create a draft work plan for the group which is regularly reviewed and updated. Have a schedule of planning meetings about the work of the group with project partners and HCCA which run in parallel to CRG meetings.
  8. Keep consumers connected with each other and the project as a whole: ensure that consumers can share their experiences and learnings with each other throughout their involvement with the project.
  9. Continuous involvement of HCCA staff.
  10. Establish a shared mechanism for tracking consumer issues or needs, including when what has been raised, when the decisions will be made and resulting outcome.
  11. Ensure that there is a feedback loop to consumer participants, informing them of advocacy outcomes, and providing them with the opportunity for continued access to this information, even if they are no longer involved in the project.
  12. In partnership with consumers, design and deliver an evaluation plan, which evaluates their contribution to the project and captures learnings for all partners. Include post occupancy evaluation of consumer led design improvements.
  13. Embed a mechanism for documenting consumer led improvements and ensuring that these are transferred to future projects, thereby building on work already done.

This report documents HCCA’s learnings though our involvement in the Canberra Hospital Expansion Project. Its intention is primarily to document lessons learned about how to lead consumer participation in health infrastructure projects. A list of consumer-led design elements in the CHE Project has been published by MPC on their website. HCCA would like to see consumer led design elements from CHEP well documented by partners CHS and MPC, and a mechanism for their transfer into new projects.


To read the full report, please use the ‘Download Document’ button.

Skip to content