As part of our ‘What If’ series on change in the NHS, we spoke to Lead and Improvement Consultant, Andrea O’Connell and asked her: “Putting all politics aside, if you could change one thing about the NHS, what would it be?”
If I could change one thing…
It would be to ensure collaboration and cooperation are embedded into every aspect of the NHS. I have seen first-hand, the power that collaboration has in delivering sustainable high quality services.
There is a significant amount of evidence supporting collaboration to meet the challenges faced by health and social care providers, with Integrated Care Systems leading this work and focusing on developing strong partnerships. However, I still observe organisations focusing on their own interests, isolating themselves from the wider system.
Collaboration comes out of trust, and it requires all parties, at all levels to communicate respectfully, breaking down any barriers that have built up.
The NHS and wider care sector is full of amazing people, doing absolutely incredible things. The pressures on all parts of the NHS are unrelenting, yet despite this, care is being transformed, organisations are delivering high quality care. Those Hospitals and Systems have the same challenges as everyone else, yet they manage to overcome them.
It was a real privilege recently to observe individuals from health, care and education as well as service users openly embrace joint-working to improve the outcomes for children with speech, language and communication difficulties. There was such passion and dedication to make a real difference for these children!
There was mutual respect at all levels and organisational and professional boundaries were broken down in order to make the current pathway more accessible. This will, I firmly believe, ensure better outcomes whilst also making efficiencies to make the service sustainable for the future. The child, their families and carers were all at the centre of discussions. Rediscovering the importance of relationships should never be underestimated and this situation demonstrated to me that anything is possible when the right people collaborate.
If I were to offer one piece of practical advice on how to begin to improve the culture in the NHS, it would be to enter into every interaction with an open mind, to listen to others, be willing to have a true learning conversation, be curious. Put preconceptions aside and see what you can achieve in one conversation. Small changes in your behaviour can lead to far bigger changes across organisations and systems!
As a registered General Nurse, Andrea is passionate about the NHS and has spent the majority of her career working for the NHS and arms-length bodies, rising to Director of Nursing & Quality in a CCG before becoming a consultant.
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