‘Look upwards and outwards. Always be willing to share, always be willing to steal.'
Kirstie Baxter, Head of Workforce Transformation (North West), Health Education England
Over the past month I’ve been incredibly fortunate to meet and work with over 100 allied health professionals (AHPs) working in the North West. We’ve been meeting with members to make sure the work we develop over the next year meets the needs of AHPs, patients and the wider system, and draws on expertise within the region.
We constantly hear in the media that the NHS doesn't change, that we don't innovate when trusts fail. Yet over the past month I have heard so many examples to contradict this narrative: AHPs and colleagues are already doing amazing work to improve services, experience and outcomes with, and for, patients. But so many of these examples are not being shared.
For innovation, new models of care, new ways of working, and ultimately improvements in health and care to spread at 'pace and scale' – quickly and across sectors and the UK – we need to share successes, and we need to share them widely, beyond our own organisations and professions.
I’d argue that we have a professional responsibility to do this. Why? Because if you’ve developed something that has benefited patients, colleagues and healthcare, then sharing will allow others to benefit from similar improvements. It prevents duplication of effort, demonstrates what works, and it can help to win hearts and minds, supporting others to make the case for similar work in their area.
This is not the time for modesty, or protectionism. Nor is it just about PR. This is about helping teams and organisations provide better care and services. It’s about not reinventing the wheel when improving services, or making the same mistakes again. Up-to-date examples of new roles and ways of working are also something that many AHP leads, regionally and nationally, need on a weekly basis to influence important conversations about healthcare transformation.
So, what stops us from sharing? I think there are four key issues: time, exposure to criticism, lack of awareness of why, how and where to share, and the skills in writing up examples.
So, where do you start? Formats vary but there are some key areas to include when sharing improvement work: why you did it, how you did it, who you did it with, the impact it had, and tips for others. When setting up a new service, we need to think about metrics and cost effectiveness as well as clinical outcomes and patient experience. Look at other examples, ask for help, and then target the content to your audience and the style of platform.
Where can we share?
A good place to start is the CSP, as well as professional events and conferences. Later this year hundreds of physiotherapists will be doing just that at the European Congress in Liverpool, (ER-WCPT 2016). But we also need to share outside of our profession. My top five ways to do this are:
- Social media – perfect for sharing experience and ideas across traditional boundaries.
- Local and national networks, including your local Academic Health Science Network – be proactive and respond to that next call for local examples.
- Fab NHS Stuff – the antidote to negative stories about healthcare, with examples posted on the site and often shared widely on social media.
- NICE local practice collection – real life examples of quality improvement in health and social care, including some great AHP examples.
- Awards – help to raise the profile of your improvement work but can also involve financial prizes to help you do more.
It was fantastic to see the buzz from the Advancing Healthcare Awards on Twitter recently, with so many excellent examples from around the country. Now make it count: share your examples and build on those of others.
We have a professional responsibility to do this – a responsibility to the patients and communities we serve.
Naomi McVey is programme manager for AHP Workforce with the North West AHP Network.