As part of our ‘What If’ series on change in the NHS, we spoke to Director Niki Cartwright 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 recognise the emotional impact and cost that ill-health has on the individual and, consequently, society.
We invest billions every year in pills, potions, treatments and surgery and yet we invest little in psychological support. And I don’t mean counselling – I mean psychological support delivered by highly – skilled clinicians.
Over the course of my NHS career, I have met many people who have received the best physical care that can be provided at a huge cost to the tax payer. And yet they consistently fail to take their medication, do their physio exercises, stop smoking etc
So why is that?
In some cases, it’s because the impact of being over-weight or having a long-term condition, is so emotionally crippling that they feel they have little control over their life, so they think, what is the point?
What we need is to reduce our investments in pills and potions and use that money to fund a swathe of psychological interventions by professionals who can build relationships with people who are frightened and in need of a friendly guiding hand.
But not delivered remotely in a hospital setting, instead delivered by walking alongside the person in their daily life, by nurturing small changes, by helping them to understand the impact they can have on their health, by giving them back control.
That investment would off-set the wasted billions in unused medication and failure to comply with treatment. We would have a happier and healthier population living rather than existing.
Niki has worked in the NHS for 30 years. When people ask her what she does, she usually says, ‘I sort out the mess’. It’s the best way to describe her skills set, which is looking at a problem and seeing how solving it can improve an outcome or situation. Her job titles have been varied, Director of Strategy, Chief Transformation Officer, CEO, Programme Director, Director of Delivery… it goes on. She looks at it from the impact on the patients– that is her driving force and is still what makes her get up in the morning with passion and joy.
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