In the UK's first health-related participatory budgeting event, residents in Thornhill, Southampton were invited to vote on which health and well-being projects they thought would best meet the health needs of the community.

"Ultimately, residents know their own health and well-being needs. So who better to decide on the commissioning of local services than the residents themselves?" asks Sandra Jordan, resident and chair of the Thornhill Community Health Group Fund, which oversees the funding in partnership with Southampton city council, the local primary care trust and the New Deal for Communities programme, Thornhill Plus You.

"Participatory budgeting has not only enabled our community to decide how money is spent, but it has also given us the power to analyse and monitor the process," she adds.

The Thornhill Community Health Group received applications from 18 projects, totalling more than£100,000 in funding. With only£50,000 up for grabs, each project had just three minutes to pitch its ideas to secure the votes of the public at an event held in June.

Voice of the people

Residents rated the projects on a scale from one to five according to how much they thought each would improve their health, as well as the health and well-being of their community.

Ten of the 18 projects secured funding, including: Health Kicks, a project awarded£5,000 to start a male health project in Thornhill - supported by Southampton Football Club - aiming to inform and educate men about health matters through football; the STAR project, awarded£9,129 to run sex and relationship workshops in local schools; and the Our Lives, Our Health team, awarded£5,853 to provide a peer-led service for disabled people in Thornhill, which includes activities such as keeping fit, general health promotion, advocacy and general support to access services.

The white paper Communities in Control: real people, real power highlights the government's responsibilities to work with the Department of Health to explore how participatory budgeting can be used to involve local people in decisions about health-related spending.

Taking ownership

"It was a real pleasure to see a local community take on the responsibility for improving their own health and well-being," said David Paynton, managing director of commercial services for Southampton City PCT. "All the presentations showed real commitment to the process, with the flowering of a number of local initiatives. The winning bids demonstrated a real breadth of understanding by the local community of their needs.

"I came away from the event determined the NHS needs to do more of this."

Following the successful pilot, the Thornhill Community Health Group will continue to allocate funding in this way.

If you would like more information about health-based participatory budgeting in Thornhill, please contact Paula Windebank, pwindebank@thornhillplusyou.co.uk