A Collaborative Clinical Community 

*Warning – this blog contains swear words (not that I’m usually a potty mouth!)

This last week we had a gathering of clinical leaders around Morecambe Bay – Nurses, Occupational Therapists, Health Visitors, Midwives, Doctors, Surgeons, Physiotherapists, Pharmacists etc. We were gathered from across primary and secondary care to look together at the financial deficit we are facing as a health community across the Bay where we are seeking to serve our population.

The debt we’re facing (a hole of around 38 million of our English pounds!) is no small thing. Most of it is historic and much of it had nothing to do with us. I spent my first eighteen months as a commissioner feeling furious at the government. I wanted to rail against the machine, the injustice of working in such an oppressive, top down and hierarchical system, which feels like being among the Hebrew Slaves in Egypt when they were told to make the same number of bricks with less resource available to them. I felt so angry with the fact that we invest so little of our GDP into health and social care compared to similar countries and when further unthought through policies were dictated from Whitehall, I felt a total rage. It doesn’t help being politically pretty far to the left and working under a regime to which I feel ideologically opposed.

But one day, I realised two things. The first thing I realised is that the government are not going to change their position or policy. Our systems of government are not set up in a relational, collaborative or solutions focussed way. It doesn’t have to like this, but this is the way it currently is. Our systems have become the very antithesis of their purpose. Rather than serve the needs of the people, the people now serve the systems. The second thing I realised was that my anger didn’t achieve anything except to make me feel tired, disempowered and stressed. I had retreated into the less healthy parts of my personality in which I was keeping false joy alive and feeling burnt out in the process.

Truth has the ability to set you free. When we face truth, no matter how painful, it gives the choice of being more free. Facing up to the truth that the government are not about to change their modus operandi and that I was feeling angry and stressed allowed me to step out of rather childish thought processes and step into something altogether more wholesome. It allowed me to step out of a false sense and rather oppressive noun of responsibility and gave me the space to think more creatively about how I am part of a community of people who can respond to the situation we find ourselves in. We can respond (verb) once we step out of the oppressive yolk of responsibility (noun).

So, those of us in clinical leadership may have not created the financial situation, but there are some stark realities for us to face up to. Whether we like it or not, our current ways of working carry much waste, caused partly by the way the finances of the system operate, but also because we have not thought of ourselves as one. There are ways we behave within the system that create more financial problems and do not serve the community as well as we could. And so it is time for us to do what we can, within our gift by being much braver in our approach. I am suggesting that there are three Cs that are vital to our future.

  1. Collaborative

imagesWe need to reimagine ourselves as all being part of a team who are together tackling the health crises we are facing. We know only too well that, as just one example among many, we are failing kids with asthma because we have not joined up our resources or thinking adequately enough. Yes there are major issues with housing, smoking and pollution, but let’s not point the finger or push the problem somewhere else. Let’s use the phenomenal brains God has given us to pull the right people round the table and work out what we’re going to do about it. Let’s change the way we spend our time so that we’re in schools, we’re listening to our communities and we’re partnering together outside of our normal comfort zones to change the health of the generations to come. We know only too well, that if we don’t shift our focus towards population health and work more intentionally with our communities, doing things with them rather than too them, we will never win this battle. We’re not about playing political games. We are about working with our communities to create optimal health for every person no matter who they are or where they are from. We need to be braver, push the boat away from the shore we know and face the uncertain waters of working altogether differently. In my next blog I will explore some of the possible ways we could work differently.

2) Clinical

In order for the NHS to adapt and become sustainable for the future, we must not be afraid of clinical leadership. Our managers have a phenomenal set of skills, which we must draw on, but there is a trust we have amongst the communities we are embedded in that means they will trust us, if we engage with them properly that will allow us to turn this ship in a new direction. We must partner with our managerial colleagues, but be braver about the direction in which we know deep down we need to head in. We have gained so much expertise and trust and this is not a time to waste it or bury our heads. We must be braver and bolder in our vision of what we can really achieve together.

3) Community

iuAs clinicians we must, as many have stated this week, build bridges not walls. There is far too much division, suspicion and competition amongst us. (Here comes the swearing)…..I was in a conversation with a consultant colleague recently and he was relaying to me that another consultant referred to GPs as a “bunch of Fuck Wits”. In a separate conversation, one of my GP colleagues referred to consultants as a “bunch of arrogant Shits”. These kind of attitudes pervade the NHS and have created a culture of dishonour, distrust and division. Honestly! We’re better than this. How are we going to create the new workforce of the future that works across our currently artificial boundaries if we don’t teach them basic respect? This week a patient came to see me because he was dismayed at having to have seen a nurse at the hospital after suffering a significant condition and wanted to check that I, as a doctor, was happy with what he had been told. I could have laughed it off, but I wanted to stand up for my nursing colleague, who actually has far more expertise in this area of medicine than I do. The advice he had been given was perfect and completely in line with the best guidance available. We must not be afraid to challenge attitudes that are antiquated and out of place. More than ever, we need a culture of honour. A culture of honour is one in which we believe the best of each other, speak well of each other and appreciate our brilliantly necessary but differing gifts and expertise. We need to work out how we work effectively together for the best of the people we serve. We need to connect with each other and rehumanise the system in which we work. When was the last time you met as a cross cultural or multidisciplinary team and simply told each other what you love and appreciate about each other and the work you do? If we can’t learn to be more relationally whole, we will continue to work in the midst of serious dysfunction and strife. Come on – amongst us we have some remarkable gifts of wisdom, healing and hope. Let’s build the kind of culture and community amongst us that stands shoulder to shoulder, changes the story in the media and speaks with one voice to the powers that we are about the a new way of working together through relationship not hierarchy and fear. What might we really achieve together? It is this kind of collaborative clinical community that can change the future of healthcare, not just in the UK, but right across the globe.

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A Healthier Story

So, we start 2017 with General Practice “skating on thin ice”, the NHS as a whole “creaking on the edge” and major concerns over funding and waiting times. Why don’t we step outside of that rather repetitive and boring story, and find a new one together – one that resonates far more with the ancient paths we once knew?

 

The world is changing, and not in a good way. We are becoming more separated from each other, our organisations and systems dehumanise us and we are becoming less well. The story that the ‘benevolent hand’ of the free market will work everything together for good is exposed in it’s nakedness, like the Emperor’s new clothes. The fabric of our society is unwinding as we become more disconnected from our own sense of wellbeing, our communities and the land on which we live.

 

How do we recover a sense of wellbeing? Where will we find healing for our past, present and future? How can we expand our own vision of what it means to be well, focusing not only on our physical health, but also on our mental, spiritual, social and systemic health?

 

How might the General Practice community move from being a group of health heroes, who fix people when they are unwell, to letting go of that old and unsustainable paradigm, learning instead to co-host, with others, an environment in which a community can be healthy and well? It doesn’t mean doing away with skills that have been crafted, but using them to empower others to be partakers and not only recipients. What if GPs or ICCs (Integrated Care Communities) faced up to the fact that they don’t have all the answers, nor the resources, nor the power to fix the problems in their local populations? What if they allowed themselves to become more of a part of their community, rather than separate or slightly aloof from it? What might a co-operative model look like? If every patient owned a small share of the practice and it truly ‘belonged’ to the community, just how radically might things change, without the need for huge ‘take overs’ by local hospital trusts or private healthcare firms? If we are to find a new way forward, we must all be willing to let go of what we have known and the power which we hold. We have to let go of our need to chase the money and imagine that we are like the city of Detroit, declare ourselves bankrupt, financially and spiritually and then together, break down the walls that keep us separate and find our way together.

 

When we host spaces in which communities can come together, rather than trying to be the experts who know how to fix everything, we let go of our need to be the heroes and come into a space for shared learning. As I spend time with a community of people recovering from various addictions in Morecambe, I find I don’t have the tools to fix things. However, I do find, that together there is a huge heart for a better and more healed society for everyone, so that others do not need to find themselves in the grip of addiction. We need to know less and find more corporate wisdom. We need to share our gifts and find the beauty of reciprocity – that it is in the giving and receiving of one another that we find a way forward in positive peace.

 

The future of our health and wellbeing relies far more on our interconnectedness and our community than on the systems we have built. Our systems must give way to become subservient to the longing of our hearts rather than the task masters which drive how we organise ourselves and live out our lives. Co-operative community gives us an opportunity to live something much more radically loving and kind, in which people and the planet really matter. Today is epiphany! A day in which some people with real wisdom realized that God came as a baby, weak, helpless and in need of community for health, wellbeing and development. If God is and needs community, how on earth have we become so disconnected from that story and made our whole way of being about experts and empires? Here is an epiphany for 2017. If God did not come as an imperial expert, but in weakness and humility, we need to do the same, if we are to find any hope for the future. The system will not change from the top down, it’s too invested in the broken story to be able to do so. But we, the people, can together be cogs that turn in new ways and realign ourselves with a way of being that brings better and more holistic health for everybody, everywhere.

 

 

Here is another interesting blog, from a slightly different perspective about how community really is the future of medicine – well worth a read, when you can make space for a nice cuppa and some left over Christmas cake (good for your wellbeing)!

 

The Future of Medicine is Community

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Wake Up to Our Health Crisis

imgres.jpgIt’s all over our news today – our health is in a real mess, and this is our wake-up call moment – we really do need to take it seriously. It’s all very well us protesting about the under-funding and under-recruitment in our NHS (and we are right to do so), but we can no longer shy away from the burden our own health choices are planting on the NHS. I’m telling you, it’s a mess and we have to do something, because genuinely, if we don’t there won’t be an NHS left for our children or their children. We simply cannot afford for 80% of us aged 40-60 to be overweight, exercising too little or drinking too much alcohol. We cannot afford to be spending 1 in every 5 pounds in the NHS as a direct result of our lifestyles or 1 in every 11 pounds on diabetes.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38402655

 

images.jpgDo you know who doesn’t care? The sugar giants – they don’t care – they are more than happy to keep our kids eating a bath-full of sugar every year, and they are more than happy to take the lovely tax breaks from our government and not even contribute to the cost our NHS picks up on their behalf. The Chocolate industry – they too are pretty happy that chocolate is no longer a luxury (people used to have it as a real treat) and that we are so willing to turn a blind eye to the fact that their empires are built on the slavery of children, whilst we fulfill our insatiable greed. Who else doesn’t care? The Alcohol industry – they do not care that every time you drink one pint of beer, you are eating the equivalent of 16 fingers of kit-kat in one go – so a night out with 4 pints is 64imgres.jpg fingers of kit-kat in one evening – think about it! And by the way, they don’t pay their fair share of tax either, and yet what they cost our country is far more than they contribute. ….Then let’s not even go there with the huge Pharmaceutical giants, who are rubbing their hands together at the thought of how many of us will be prescribed medication for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes over the next couple of decades, when we could all do without most of it, if we made some simple changes now! And what of the Fast Food outlets that cram our high streets with ill-health choices – who makes these decisions about town planning?!

 

imgres.pngSo, if these corporate giants don’t care, we should care – and maybe we haven’t until now, but it’s time we did!! And we should be pretty angry about the fact that successive governments have been on the side of greedy corporations, who are literally poisoning us. They have chosen, time and again, to support big business and the unaccountable growth of their money, above the wellbeing of their own people! And these companies have advertised the benefits of their delicacies, placed their products very carefully in collusion with the Supermarket giants and who are the fools who believed it all? That would be us! But we must not let our anger be a cause to blame someone else. We must fess up to our own weaknesses and vices, understand them and no longer let them rule us. We have been led right down the garden path of temptation, succumb to the the idea that we’re worth it and we can have whatever we want, without thinking of the consequences…..well…..now we’re at the tipping point. So let’s wake up!

 

If you could change one thing about your lifestyle heading into 2017, what would it be? In my next blog, I’ll give you some simple ideas of things you might want to think about – but no one can make the change for you. It is time for us to make some choices about what kind of legacy we want to leave for the future. The past has caught up with us, but we can determine a different kind of future, if we are willing to make the changes now! It won’t be easy, but if we adopt the spirit of 1945, it really is possible!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Understanding Brexit (and Trump)

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about how the Brexit and Trump campaigns were so successful. (I owe most of ths thought process to a very inspiring session about our shadow selves from Paul and Angie Woods, during a weekend focussed on the Enneagram). What was it, apart from the arguments made and the general feeling of discontent that appealed so deeply to the national psyches of the United Kingdom and the United States respectively?

 

I think there is some real wisdom to be gleaned from the Enneagram about the corporate personalities of the UK and USA, which might help us to understand why the majority voted as they did and how we might want to understand and embrace our corporate mind-sets as we look to develop a positive politics of peace for the future.

 

Richard Rohr has done some helpful work, as have others, on the personality types or dominant psyches of various nations. I agree with his perspective that Great Britain has a Type 6 personality and the USA is of Type 3. The root struggle for a type 6 personality is the need to be secure – therefore any campaign based on fear (of not having enough Sovereignty, of not having control of our money, of the “other” people who keep coming here and taking away our sense of national identity) touches on our deepest need and struggle. For a type 3 personality, the root struggle is the need to succeed and so the promise to ‘make America great again’ strikes the chord that tugs on the heart strings.

 

enneagram-3-6-9-healthSo, focusing in on the UK (maybe some thoughts on the lovely USA another time), if we are to shift the political discourse towards something more healthy for the future, we need to learn to listen to the part of us that feels the need to be safe. We need to understand the ‘shadow’ part of our corporate personality that is anxious and fearful, admitting to ourselves what drives our thoughts and actions. When a Type 6 personality is not in a healthy place, they will begin to regress into a Type 3 pattern of thinking. So, the underlying drive to be safe becomes the need to get noticed and be special. So, post-brexit, some of which was about the need to be safe, we find our politicans trying to re-assert our Soverignty and our ‘Greatness’. Only a couple of weeks ago, Boris Johnson, the Foreign Secretary, was declaring on the radio that we don’t realise quite how the rest of the world sees us. Apparently, they admire us and think we need to continue showing great leadership in the world. We continue to believe this about ourselves, that we are very special and have a vital role which the rest of the world needs us to play. I wonder if we actually asked the rest of the world whether or not this is true, they might laugh in our face, pat us on the head and gently remind us that the world has moved on, but maybe we have not.

enneagram-6

 

Great Britain, as a Type 6 corporate personality, has an innate sense of loyalty. After the NHS, our Royal Family reamins the most popular part of our national identity, according to recent surveys. We carry a sense of being ‘loyal subjects’ who ‘do our duty for Queen and Country’. We are reliable, dependable, a safe pair of hands. But when our security is threatened, when we feel we are losing control, when we are told again and again that our borders are not safe, we begin to seek our security externally. We shut others out, we stop trusting others to make rules we don’t feel we have enough control over, build more weapons and ensure our finances work primarily for us. This then leads us towards a tendancy for workoholism, and so then we cut the nation state, drive people back into work, making an argument that it is the ‘lazy poor’ who are in part to blame for some of our mess. We become much more image conscious of our perceived role in the world and go on a charm offensive to remind people just how special we really are. But let me just state this: this is not a very healthy way to behave or live in the world.

 

I know this isn’t going to sound ‘Great’, but it is my perspective that ‘Great Britain’ left the European Union our of a place of fear, which has drawn us to try and re-discover our ‘special’ place in the world. During the referendum, some of our deepest corporate insecurities were touched on, and rather than see them for what they are, speak to them comfortingly and confront them within ourselves, we were enticed into age old patterns of behaviour which acually prevent us becoming the true gift amongst nations that we could be. You see, in my opinion, the invitation to the UK was (and actually continues to be) this: Firstly, let’s admit it – we’re scared. There is too much going on in the world that makes us feel out of control. We need a sense of comfort and security and we’re not sure how to get that anymore, without shutting our borders and taking back control over our ‘own laws and money’. This is exactly why we need the firendship and help of our neighbours! Secondly, we need to hear the call to us that we are loved, actually (!) and we can therefore allow ourselves to be still and know that safety is not truly found in better barriers and bigger weapons but in the risk that is relationship, vulnerability and being known…..that somehow underneath everything are the ‘everlasting arms’. Thirdly, this allows us to find a new place in ‘just being’, knowing we have inherent value, becoming truly loayal friends to the rest of Europe and the World, without the need to re-establish our status as the ‘Great One’.

 

Yes, the media holds an enormous amount of power, but it was the appeal to our deepest needs, a root struggles that enevitably lead to Brexit. Those, who felt the pull to remain, needed to speak to those very same issues, whilst calling us not towards our ‘3’ need to be Great and Successful, but towards our ‘9’. We must awaken the imagination of these amzing isles to a new place in the world, that is not about reassesrting our own name as Great, but finding our place as a nation of peace, building an altogether different kind of future in which our work does not look to protect our own future and rights, but the future hope of everyone everywhere. The UK has some incredible gifts and we can be a gift within and among the nations. We need a world in which each nation knows it’s inherent value and each can take their place amongst the nations to build a future for generations to come, in which we live in peace. We need to reimagine our place in the world. We need to tell a new and more ancient story. In order to do so we MUST face up to our own shadow, otherwise we will continue to act out of it and be the very antithesis of what we would, in our heart of heats, love to become.

 

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Reimagining Medical Education

imagesWe’ve got a problem (well 4 actually), when it comes to medical education! The first is this: Jeremy Hunt is promising loads of new places at medical school – I know this doesn’t sound like a problem, it sounds like a solution. But the truth is, once you actually do some number crunching, the new places won’t even account for the losses we will have due to retirement over the next 10 years, let alone account for the increased need there is in the system. So…..we’re still going to be short of doctors. Unfortunately – there isn’t a political appetite to increase these numbers further, and with our exit from the EU we’re genuinely facing an ongoing crisis.

 

The next problem is therefore that we need to restructure our workforce in quite aimages.jpg creative way, to work more smartly and differently, with a flexible workforce, but due to the pressures upon the system, there is little room for people to put much time or imagination into this and there is also a huge leap of faith involved. There is simply not the evidence base in place to support the leap we are asking GPs, in particular, to take in restructuring their practices and not replace GPs with GPs, but with combinations of paramedics, advanced practitioners, physician assistants, physics, mental health workers, health coaches and the like. However, the issue is that the system finds itself, like Indiana Jones, at the edge of a cliff, with no way back and the only thing for it is to step into the unknown and hope that God supplies the stepping stones…..Those in leadership positions are going to have be given space and grace to try some things, get it wrong and try again……One of the vital things that will be involved is proper engagement with the communities we serve. Clinicians and the general population need to have a better and deeper understanding of one another. There is a huge language void to be bridged and a collaboration that is needed in understanding how services can be more helpfully redesigned for the benefit of everybody. It also means where there are are difficult decisions to be made, there are no cloak and daggers or suspicion, but honest, open communication in the light of day that builds trust and partnership.

 

Our third issue is that with the vast increase in hyper-specialism and the loss of generalism from training programmes after qualification. Rural and remote places in particular are unable to get the staff mix necessary to run successful and safe services. This is due to a lack of foresight from centralised diktats and various guidance from NICE and the Royal Colleges that favours this approach. Health Education England must be brave enough to allow areas to be innovative in the training they provide. Our needs in Morecambe Bay are utterly different to those of Nottingham or Central London and we need new training programmes that will cater for this.

 

images.jpgFourthly, our medical schools are delivering a curriculum, designed centrally but based on yesterdays NHS. There is not enough creative vision around the curriculum to build the right kind of future doctors. There is still far too much focus on illness and disease and no where near enough thought or teaching about wellness, healthy lifestyles, nutrition and non-pharmacological options. The role of the future doctor is much more population focused and digitally savvy. It is our medical schools more than anywhere else that carry the responsibility to ensure the future NHS is catered for. We need a radical shake up in medical education and some brave people to rewrite the curriculum that will enable medical schools to be more creative and engaging in helping to raise the doctors we need for the future.

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Solutions Focused Thinking for the NHS

One of the main headlines in the news this morning is that without extra funding, the NHS is in dire straits and patients are beginning to suffer as a result of less financial provision than is needed.

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-38019771

 

One of the things I have trained in, during my career is Solutions Focused Therapy. It’s a fantastic way of helping someone to open their mind to new possibilities once they become stuck in a rut. So, for example, when someone is struggling with depression, there can be a downward spiral of thoughts that prevents the person being able to see much hope for the future. What SFT does, is to awaken the imagination to some other possibilities. The more colour and variety that can be painted the better. So, if you’re imgresfeeling low/down/hopeless/sad/apathetic/bored/exhausted, I might invite you to imagine what life might be like if you weren’t feeling that way. You might tell me that you’d feel happy and then I would ask you to tell me what ‘happiness’ might be like for you. I’d ask you to describe in as much detail as possible how you would know that you were happy – what would be different? I’d get you to put as much colour on that as possible. And once I understood how you would know you were happy, I would ask how others around you would know – what your partner/children/friends/pets would notice about you…….suddenly your mind is alive with an alternative reality to where you are currently and although things won’t be suddenly better, your mind has been awakened to another way of being!  And that brings a beautiful thing – it brings possible solutions to the problem.

 

imgresThere is no doubting that the problems in the NHS are vast. One of the things I have found is that if you try and enable someone to think about the solutions without allowing them to tel you what the problems are, you won’t get very far. A certain amount of catharsis and expression of the issues is important. So here goes: here is a picture of the problems the NHS faces (and these have already been stated many times over, but let’s just be clear):

 

imgresThe NHS is under-funded. Cuts to other services, like social care have also had a massive impact on the NHS as a system being able to work and targets are being missed as a result. People are living longer and this means more complex health problems and a rise in dementia. There is more obesity and diabetes and this has a huge impact in the cost of healthcare. The way the NHS is funded is ludicrous and puts parts of the system that should be working collaboratively in direct competition with each other. Teams across the NHS are clumsy and clunky with little ability to work smartly due to constraints of historic ways things were set up. Demand and expectation are extremely high and yet there are multiple missed appointments. And I could go on!

 

BUT we CANNOT stay on the merry-go-round of problems. We cannot continue to simply imgreseat moany pie together and complain about the issues. Throwing mud and finger pointing, blaming everybody else but ourselves will solve nothing. The awful tribalism and over politicization of the NHS is preventing us from finding a way forward. What might health and social care in this country be like if open our mind to new possibilities? What if we stopped focusing on all the problems and dreamed of how things might be in 5, 10, 50, 100 years time? We’ve been doing this in Morecambe Bay and we’re moving from not only dreaming but to doing something different!

 

imagesWe’re working with our communities to help us all live more healthy lives, thinking about health as a social movement. 97% of all health monies are spent once people are ill. We’re taking prevention seriously! We are breaking down walls between our organisations and sharing our budgets. We’re building relationships between clinicians and managers across many diving lines. We’re collaborating to share our resources and using our budgets in a way that makes sense for our communities. We’re unashamedly talking a new language of love, building trust and establishing infrastructures of positive peace. We’ve worked out where we are being inefficient and sharing our conundrums with our communities (we do actually have to be responsible about what we spend – the NHS is not carte blanche). We’re working out how to work differently and more smartly. We’re sorting out our IT. We’re redesigning care so it makes more sense for our patients. We’re working on our consultation and communication skills. We’re being more proactive in getting positive messages out there. We’re building for the next 100+ years not just the next political cycle. This is better care together!imgres

 

At this point in time, it is vital that our collaborative efforts are not allowed to fail. We are working hard at so many levels. We are doing all that is being asked of us. We are playing ball. Now we need the government to put their money where their mouth is. Holding the funding as it is will see us and many other areas trying to do the same thing fail in the process and this would be a great tragedy. The solutions, of which there are many, will be in jeopardy. But this is not the time to lose hope. This is the time for us all to make good the dreams we hold for the future.

 

 

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Solutions Focused Thinking in Population Health

My last blog focused on how we can think about solutions instead of problems in the NHS. Well the same is true in thinking about the health of our whole population. Yes there are some problems! We have growing health concerns with obesity and diabetes. We imageshave huge health inequalities. There are major issues with housing, economic policies that are not working for huge swathes of our population, with more people having to use food banks, struggling with fuel poverty, living in damp houses and unable to make ends meet. Yes, our kids are spending more time on screens and less time in activity. Yes, the sugar lobby, alcohol lobby and advertising giants have far too much power. Supermarkets are designed deliberately so that we buy things that are bad for us. And sometimes, we just make poor choices (if you can call them choices, which for some people, they aren’t always) – we do not all live as healthily as we could – we eat the wrong stuff, work highly stressful jobs, and exercise less than we are recommended to. Mental health issues are on the rise, especially for teenagers, due to crazy targets and league tables, with all the pressures they face. We are less happy and more separated than we ever used to be, despite the rise in social media…..(or maybe because of it……)…..Man, I can paint a negative picture – it’s like storm clouds and darkness everywhere……..

 

imagesBut what if it wasn’t that way? What if we got a bit angry about it, but instead of finding someone to blame and pointing the finger; instead of getting all tribal and throwing stones at others, we chose to use our energies creatively to find solutions, to work together and make positive changes?! Let’s put away our pointing fingers and our ranting tongues and let’s work together for a better future for everyone! Doesn’t that sound good?! It’s what we’re trying here in Morecambe Bay, and I’m hoping it spreads like wild fire so that we can become a place where health abounds and beauty surrounds (that’s the motto of this place!). That doesn’t mean we stop speaking truth to power, but we also let our actions (and maybe our votes) speak louder than ever before.

 

imgresWe’re talking together, taking time to dream about what it would be like if we were the healthiest area in the UK. We’re training up many people to host conversations, so that we break down walls and learn to collaborate for the sake of everyone. We’re not just dreaming about physical health, but mental, social and systemic health as well. We’re encouraging those who want to rise up and take some leadership, to be pioneers in the stuff they are passionate about. Even in my little town, we now have a mental health cafe that is literally saving people’s lives, because a lady called Jane wanted to make a difference. We have a cafe for all the people who have circulation problems because one of our nurses wanted to break people’s isolation and improve their healing rates at the same time. imagesWe’ve got a carers cafe, a dementia cafe and will soon have a breathing cafe for those who have severe COPD, sharing ideas and diminishing anxiety. We’ve got exercise classes to help with pain, a community choir, dog poo wardens to help us take more pride when we walk down the street and food banks to help those who can no longer afford to eat.

 

image[1]We have 2000 kids aged 4-11 running a mile a day at school with staggering results for our children here in terms of physical, mental and educational health. We’re hoping over time, this becomes the Morecambe Bay Mile, part of a cultural shift towards being more active. We are working with local chefs and supermarkets to enable people with pre-diabetes or weight struggles to eat more healthily.  We’re choosing to lead by example in the NHS to work well and flourish in our work places. We’ve made a commitment to see the 5 ways to wellbeing in every NHS organisation and we’re hoping many other systems and businesses will follow us in this. We’re finding radical ways to help people who are struggling with alcohol and drug addiction, get free and stay free with amazing results. We’re helping people live well with and beyond cancer.015c74b06779fe8d8496d585fb9865ea We’re changing the way consultations happen in the NHS to enable people to make more informed and better choices about their own health and conditions, so they feel empowered to make changes that work for them rather than beaten up when they go for an appointment! We’re launching the Morecambe Bay Poverty Truth challenge, learning from those who are lived NAWIFUexperts in poverty to help us work together and care better for those most struggling in our society. We’re having difficult conversations about death to help people be prepared for every eventuality.

 

All of this has started in the last year! What else might be possible? What other dreamsimages will be awakened? What other partnerships, collaborations and relationships might be formed? Being all tribal and accusatory of others saps our energy and stops us being creative. Mud slinging and blame will achieve little. We have to work from where we are. We have to build bridges and work together. We have to build a future of positive peace and that means binary thinking is over! The future doesn’t have to be full of doom and gloom. It is alive with hope! What resources might  we find? What talents might we discover? What might we see develop over the next 12 months/years/decades as we look for solutions together for a better future for everybody? Don’t you feel just a little bit excited?

 

 

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3 Keys for the Future of Healthcare

This week I traveled to London for an interview. The lovely team that I work with have nominated me for the HSJ Clinical Leader of the Year award. Unbeknownst to me, this meant presenting myself before a panel of experts and leaders in the field of healthcare to talk about the work we have been doing. It was a privilege to get to do this. One of the questions gave me an opportunity to explore with them what I have learnt that has the capacity to bring transformational change….another was about the nature of leadership (which I will blog on next time).

 

So, for what it’s worth, here are the 3 key things  which I consider to be vital to unlock the future of sustainable healthcare, just in case they are helpful!

 

  1. Culture Change 

 

Much has been written in the press (and quite rightly so) over the last few years about some of the toxic culture that is at work in the NHS. Sometimes the toxicity is to do with power plays, competition, hierarchy, bullying, low morale and substandard care. But in other cases it is to do with a lack of compassion and care towards those who work in the system which causes the other negative behaviours or leads on to emotion fatigue and poor delivery of service.

 

When I moved into my role as “lead clinical commissioner of maternity services” (we love long titles in the health service!), three and a half years ago, it was just as Sir Bill Kirkup was publishing his report into the University Hospital of Morecambe Bay. It highlighted the failings we had in our maternity and neonatal services that had lead to some extremely sad and unnecessary losses of life. It targeted the negative culture within our teams and directly challenged some of the behaviours. Morale was understandably at an all time low. But there has been a significant change in culture over the last few years. Cultural shift is absolutely possible but involves a willingness to look stupid at times, to persevere when things feel awkward and remain hopeful when the task seems impossible. I believe the secret lies in rehumanising team meetings, connecting at a relational level, being vulnerable with each other, learning from mistakes, challenging unacceptable practice but creating an atmosphere of grace in which people can reflect, learn, grow, develop, change and discover each other with a deeper understanding and eyes that choose to look with kindness. I refuse to start any of the team meetings I chair without checking how people are doing, giving them space to tell a bit of their story. I want to give space for people to encourage each other, say what they love about each other and what they most appreciate about one another’s work. It’s not rocket science. It’s called connection and compassion! I’ve seen it work here in maternity teams, in our health and wellbeing teams and it really can happen anywhere. Without giving it space and time, nothing will change. But where there is a real sense of togetherness and hope, many more things become possible.

 

2. Community Partnership

 

Part of our problem in healthcare is our level of expertise. We know far too much. We “know” what’s good for people. We “know” what people and communities need. We “know” what will make them better. BUT we have not yet really learned to LISTEN. I have found it to be a very humbling and necessary experience to shut my mouth, quieten my need to fix and really listen to the people and communities I am looking to serve and live amongst. When our team hosts conversations to listen to people here around their dreams for this area in terms of health and wellbeing, they don’t talk about extra appointments at weekends or shorter waiting times. They talk about dog poo, safe playing spaces for kids, singing, looking after elderly neighbours, help with exercise and eating well, safe places for people with mental health problems to get together and be understood and many other things. I have found that listening builds partnerships. It creates trust. It means that with our communities, we can co-commission things, and we can do things together rather than the experts doing things to them.

 

If we are going to see the social movement we need around health and wellbeing in this country, we are going to have to let go of some of our “knowing” and be humble enough to learn. We are going to need to partner with people and not do things to them. We are going to need to focus more on prevention than treatment. We are going to need to work differently. Without the vital engagement and listening with and to our communities, we will never achieve the holy grail of a sustainable health service that remains free for everybody. Together, many things become more possible, and we can learn to live in peace.

 

3.  Collaboration

 

Every organisation is strapped for cash. It doesn’t need to be this way, but it is the reality of our current economic model. Collaboration and the sharing of resources between partners and organisations is the only way forward. I love sitting in team meetings that involve healthcare – in its different guises – primary, secondary and community services, with social care, the police, the fire service, mental health teams, the voluntary sector, the faith sector, the city and county councils. Creating new cultures, letting down barriers, discovering shared vision, pooling ideas and resources – seriously good for the soul and definitely the future we are looking for.

 

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Here we go round the NHS Mulberry Bush!

One of my favourite songs as a 5 year old was ‘Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush’. I’ve been involved with the NHS for 17 years now and every winter, we do this same dance around Emergency Departments and the total mess that surrounds hospital admissions, discharges and an ever growing list of missed targets. Unfortunately, it no longer applies only to winter. It really is an absolute shambles and the problems are only too obvious. In this blog, I plan to outline them, but hopefully move away from the classic “who’s to blame” arguments and push through towards thinking about solutions…..none of which are easy, but neither are they rocket science!

 

So, here is a list of problems:

  1. We have an increasingly elderly population, who have increasingly complex health needs. You might not think this really means that much, but it has a profound impact on how long someone might need to stay in hospital and the kind of care they might require both in terms of social care and health care in the community. A recent report by the King’s Fund showed the extra strain on the health service due to a rise in people having multiple conditions is substantial. (http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/publications/pressures-in-general-practice)
  2. Funding cuts in social care and ‘efficiency savings’ in the NHS are having a terrible impact on hospitals and communities alike. If, as in our locality, wards have to be closed in order to balance the books, this has a massive knock on into several areas. If you close wards, it means the hospital fills up more quickly. If the hospital is full, then where do the patients who need to go into the hospital wait? The answer is in the ED. If they are waiting in the ED, then there becomes a back log of patients who cannot be seen and there will be an automatic failure to see, treat and admit or discharge patients within the 4 hour target window, which then leads to a negative rating for the hospital under CQC and pressure from on high to ‘do something about it’. But that’s just it….what can be done? Can people just be discharged home when they are unwell? – This is happening increasingly and then they end up back in hospital the next day in a worse state. The ED departments get the blame, but there is precious little they can do. At the other end of the line are people waiting to get home, but due to the deep cuts in social care, there simply isn’t the provision to put that care in place and so they are stuck. A lack of joined up computer systems between primary and secondary care makes this even more difficult. And even where patients could be cared for at home by community teams, the correct investment has not been made in this key area, hospital staff have not been trained to work in alternative environments (and believe me, they really are different) and so the teams we need in the community simply aren’t in place in many towns, cities and rural communities.
  3. There is a lack of information flow about patients and the care packages they already have in place and so a massive amount of time is wasted due to poor communication.
  4. The ‘A&E brand’ or ED, as it is now called is incredibly strong. Everybody knows it. And so people use it totally inappropriately, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes desperation, sometimes laziness or convenience and sometimes apathy to the strain it places on services. We either have to work with this or keep on encouraging people not to use the ED. Unfortunately studies from the USA and Canada show that the more you negatively advertise the ED, the more people will use it. The King’s Fund explain with excellent clarity some of the complexities involved. What’s going on in A&E? The key questions answered (http://www.kingsfund.org.uk/projects/urgent-emergency-care/urgent-and-emergency-care-mythbusters?utm_source=twitter&utm_medium=social&utm_term=socialshare)
  5. Our residential and nursing home sector is in absolute disarray and in some areas of the country they are run like cartels, holding hospital trusts and county councils to ransom in terms of affordability.
  6. We are still unwilling to have a difficult and frank discussion about our attitude to death and how we often keep people alive for years, when we could allow them to die naturally and peacefully (I’ve blogged on this emotive subject previously).

 

So what happens is we have a circular blame culture in which everybody will blame somebody else, but nobody will take responsibility and so we will continue our dance around the mulberry bush! But if you have just a tiny bit of faith, you can say to this mulberry bush, “Be uprooted and be thrown into the Sea”. Where systems become oppressive and toxic,  we must pluck up the complex root structure and find a new way.

 

Without real commitment from the government to invest rather than cut at this crucial time of transition, spending now to make huge savings in the long term, we might just continue this dance ad infinitum. The solutions cannot deliver change by the next parliament, but the transition must be honoured as vital and therefore allowed to happen over the next 10-20 years. We need a whole systems approach and it needs to involve the following (we’re trying this in Morecambe Bay):
Firstly, we need the development of Integrated Care Communities (ICCs). ICCs are geographically based, multidisciplinary teams, led and co-ordinated by a GP and a nurse but also include the vital mix of the fire service, police, mental health teams, social services, community matrons/long term conditions nurses, district nurses, community therapy teams and representatives of 3rd sector organisations. The idea of these teams to to keep care closer to home, share information, prevent admissions to hospital, but where admissions happen, ensure they happen in a coordinated way, bringing people back home as quickly as possible. We already have some great stories emerging here of this working really successfully. These teams have the potential to change the modus operandi and bring a culture change to how care is delivered. 
However, these teams will fail for the same three key reasons the NHS is currently on the ropes. Resource, recruitment and IT. 

These teams will be managing complex care in the community. With not too much extra funding, GPs and the care coordinators could do some incredibly effective work, but right now, general practice is at full stretch and so convincing community teams to take on this work will not be straight forward. This resource would be best invested in two areas – recruitment of staff, or retraining of staff and secondment of them from the hospital setting into the community and the strengthening of social care teams, (which to my mind are more accountable and more effective when under the same management as the NHS and provided by the state). The investment in it would also not be huge but it does involve some upfront cash. If each GP/Care Coordinator could have a laptop with Emis Web imbedded in it, with full access to their patients notes, they could go into the hospital setting once a week, do a ward round of their patients, who they know far better than the hospital teams and get them home. With the right team investment in the community this initiative would literally save millions of bed days and save an enormous amount of resource. But the better and more important benefit will be for patients themselves However, there is a warning for the government. In order for this to be effective and have the desired impact, it MUST be double-run, rather than expecting this to be done on top of what is already the status quo. The capacity is simply not in the system, but it could so easily be and this could be utterly transformational.
Secondly, the government must reverse the perverse cuts to funding. It simply bad mathematics to think that you can shrink the size of a hospital and shrink the social care provision available in the community at the same time. We need a serious reinvestment in social care. A strong and well paid social sector will bring more people into work, which btw builds a stronger economy.

Thirdly, we need to ensure all people in residential and nursing care, and those living with complex health conditions in the community have detailed care plans in place to avoid hospital admissions, except when absolutely necessary AND in line with the persons own wishes.

Fourthly, we must co-create urgent care strategies, not designed from on high, but collaboratively between ED departments, mental health teams, the police, GPs, community nursing teams and social services. If we cannot undo fifty years of public mindset about the ED, then let’s work with this rather than against it. We need more people recruited to work in the emergency setting and the pay needs to reflect the complexity and unsocial nature of the work.

Fifthly, we must stop the nonsense around data sharing, make patient records available to patients themselves and front end our EDs, Acute Medical and Surgical Units, Outpatient Departments with the same systems as we find in the GPs, all of whom should agree to share their records. In our area this would be with Emis Web, a very straight forward system to use. It would mean far faster diagnostics, more joined up, effective care for patients and investment now by the government across the UK would save them plenty of money within just a few years. It would also make data gathering, audit and governance easier and safer. The idea of spending literally millions of pounds on apps that can input data straight into patients notes, before we have this far more vital infrastructure in place is quite frankly ridiculous!
Lastly, we must work creatively with communities on public health strategies that can have a lasting impact and so stave off the growing health crises we see emerging for the future.

I don’t know about you, but to me the dance around this mulberry bush has become pretty boring, a colossal waste of time and energy and so in my opinion, we should quite simply stop it and do something different. The solutions are right in front of us. Will the government have the guts to stop what they are doing and make the right investments now for the sake of the health and wellbeing of the population at large and the health and social care system as a whole. They might not get the glory at the next election, but in ten years time, we will see that the right choices were made for the good of all. 
 

 

 

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Is Our Work Killing Us?

So a huge study from Norway tells us that being inactive at work and sitting at our desks for too long is as dangerous to our health as smoking and is a major cause of early death.

 

Hour’s activity ‘offsets sedentary day’
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-36895789

 

Here is my response:

 

 

 

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