This is what we mean by Better Care Together!
This is what we mean by Better Care Together!
Here is my latest vlog on using the 5 ways to wellbeing to help change the culture of the NHS.
Here is the 4th vlog in a mini-series, exploring the 5 ways to well-being from the New Economics Foundation to help transform the culture of the NHS.
One of the hats I wear is to be the Clinical Lead Commissioner for Maternity Services in North Lancashire and I chair the Maternity Commissioning Group for Morecambe Bay. Over the last few years, Morecambe Bay has been under huge public and governmental scrutiny due to some sad and significant failings at UHMBFT, our acute NHS Trust. This lead to the in-depth and wide-ranging “Kirkup Review” through which we have learned together some sobering and important lessons.
In 2013, we carried out what is called a ‘Picker Survey’ in the Bay and had a startling reality check. 44% of the women we aimed to care for told us that they did not feel treated with kindness or respect. It was a devastating figure for us to hear. So, learning from the ‘Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge’, we learned that we needed to allow ourselves to really listen to what women were saying to us, to hear their stories and let the impact of those stories begin to change us. One of the great advocates for women, compassionate care, kind listening and careful communication in this area is Mel Gard, a Doula, who facilitates our ‘Maternity Services Liaison Committee’ (MSLC) around the Bay. The MSLC is a group of women and men who use our services, which Julia Westaway must be credited for facilitating so well. Over the last three years in particular, they have taken the time to build relationships with those of us who commission and provide services and in effect ‘speak truth to power’. Mel and many others have brought to us stories of times when listening and communication skills have been excellent within our maternity service and times when they have been clumsy at best and detrimental or abusive at worst. This has begun a culture change and a survey carried out in 2015 has seen this startling figure reduce to 26% (we know this is still far too high, but it is a vast improvement).
It is only in encountering the ‘other’ that we are really changed. Alan Alda says this, “Listening is being able to be changed by the other person.” There is no point in hearing the stories and impact of poor communication on our patients if it does not fundamentally change us and our practice. In the NHS, we’re so used to being the experts that we sometimes think we have the right to tell people what they should do, rather than really listening to them and understanding what is important to them, the person who is the expert in their own life and situation. It is partnership and not dictatorship that we need. It is a willingness to learn together rather than an arrogance that knows how to ‘fix’ things that we must develop. So, together with the MSLC we have devised an entire learning exercise for all those who work within our maternity service. We are going to allow ourselves to encounter the ‘other’, on their terms, not ours, and let the impact of their stories transform us. So, in the next couple of weeks, women from around the Bay are going to film and tell their stories in a variety of ways and this film will then be used as a learning tool for every person who works in our service around the Bay, including cleaners, the nursing auxiliary team, midwives, obstetricians of all grades etc in some wide-ranging attitudinal and communication training. Amazingly, we have just won a national grant of £65000 to help us do this really well, thanks to the exceptional work of Lindsay Lewis, our lead manager and Sascha Wells, our Head of Midwifery.
The idea is straight forward. By hearing the real life stories from around the Bay and allowing ourselves to be impacted by them, we will then use some reflective conversations, and techniques from the ‘Art of Hosting’, to allow the power of real listening to change us and transform our practices. I am so grateful for the women and men who have been brave enough to tell their stories. I am grateful to our senior team that we have been willing to be humble and be impacted by these stories. I am grateful for relationships and partnerships that are being established between those of us who provide services and those who use them. I am grateful for the tenacity of people who want to see our cultures change. I am grateful for ‘The Leeds Poverty Truth Challenge’ and its far reaching consequences. I am grateful for the opportunity to break down barriers and find positive ways forward. I am grateful for the transformative power of listening and the change that can happen when we really encounter another human being. Better Care Together is so much better when we work together with those we are trying to serve.
Stanley Hauerwas said this: “I was smart, but I had not yet learned to listen.” The NHS is full of really smart people. When we learn to listen, our ‘smartness’ will become real wisdom, and with wisdom, we can bring real, lasting change.
Better Care Together is the way in which health services are now being redesigned and reorganised around Morecambe Bay, so that we can provide the best care we can for the people who live here in a way that is safe, sustainable and accessible. It is an on-going process and involves the breaking down of barriers between General Practices, the Hospital Trust (UHMBT), Community Nursing and Therapies, Mental Health Services, Social Care, Allied Services – like the Police and Fire Service – and the Voluntary Sector.
Here in Carnforth, we are piloting some work around ‘self-care’ and exploring what it means to be a healthy town. This is now beginning to spread like wild fire around this area, which is exciting to watch! Part of this work is rooted in the fact that currently 1 in every 5 pounds spent in the NHS is due to our lifestyle choices. If we’re going to have a NHS in the future, then we need to try and choose to live more healthily together. We must also recognise that being healthy and well is far more than just physical health. It includes mental health, social heath and systemic (or environmental) health. A few months ago we hosted a number of conversations in Carnforth about what it might be like if Carnforth was the healthiest town in Lancashire. Some really interesting ideas emerged from the community about singing together more regularly, having less dog poo on the streets, creating safe places for the children to play, getting more exercise into our schools, encouraging healthy eating, a mental health café, help for carers and many other brilliant suggestions.
From these conversations, a ‘Self Care Tree’ has grown with four roots and three clear branches that we believe will help us grow together into a healthy and well town. The roots are straight forward – 1) Really learning to engage with our local community instead of assuming that we know what they need and learning to do things with them instead of to them, 2) being part of an Integrated Care Community – see below, 3) Being part of Better Care Together, 4) Understanding Wellbeing – shifting our mindsets from an ‘illness model’ of health to a ‘wellness model’.
The three main branches we have developed in Carnforth are as follows: The first is that we have some ‘culture change’ to undergo, both in our medical and nursing teams and also as a wider community. Over the coming months we will see the emergence of what we are calling an Integrated Care Community – first modelled for this area in Garstang. As part of Better Care Together, we have appointed a fantastic new Care Co-ordinator, Sarah Baines, who was part of our District Nursing team. Sarah will work alongside Dr David Wrigley at Ash Trees Surgery to help co-ordinate care more effectively in the community for people with more complex health problems and provide more stream-lined care, preventing unnecessary hospital admissions and enabling faster and smoother discharges back home from hospital. Secondly, we are learning to take more of a ‘coaching’ approach to how we consult with patients, to encourage more partnership working with people, rather than telling people what to do (which isn’t actually very effective). Staff are training in ‘coaching practice’, ‘motivational interviewing’ and ‘shared decision making’. We are trying to be more proactive with information. If you look on our practice website, www.ashtrees.co.uk, you will find a tab entitled ‘self-care’. Here you will find videos (many more to come and some of which we are re-doing!) that talk about various common conditions you can treat yourself without having to go through the often difficult task of finding an appointment with one of our team. Our local pharmacists are a hugely valuable resource, who can offer excellent health advice and treatments over the counter, saving local people time and inconvenience. Also, not too far away, we hope to have a brilliant new facility called ‘e-consult’, which will allow our patients to manage their own care more efficiently ‘on-line’.
The pressure on General Practice is huge. The government only allocates £136 per person per year to General Practice. this money accounts for all GP consultations, appointments with nurses, blood tests, investigations and referrals and indeed the payment of staff. If you want to know what this compares to, then for £136, you can buy 11 months worth of pet insurance for a rabbit or 3 months worth of coffee every day on your way to work!! No wonder the system is under strain! If we want to have a NHS that is free for everybody and still standing in the years ahead for future generations, then we do need to be careful that we don’t abuse the system and take care of ourselves better and think about whether we really need an appointment before booking one!
The second branch we have seen is the emergence of ‘community leaders’, who have seen a community need and have stood up to do something about it. We know there are already loads of community leaders out there doing great stuff, like sports clubs as just one example. So, we have seen the start of a mental health café, called “Serenity” every Wednesday afternoon at Hunter Street in Carnforth, 2-4pm. A carer’s café has started on the 3rd Saturday of every month 2-4pm, again at Hunter Street. Carnforth Community Choir meets at 7pm every Friday evening at the Civic Hall – singing is well known to improve our health and wellbeing! We have volunteer dog poo wardens, trying to help our streets be cleaner (it’s amazing what dog poo says about a town), and people cleaning up our parks to give the children in our community safe places to play outdoors. We have trained 22 “health champions” who will be starting with various initiatives soon, and many others have volunteered to help in lots of exciting new ways. All of this serves to break down social isolation and encourage us to take care of ourselves and one another.
The third branch is ‘clinical leadership’. Right now, Morecambe Bay has some of the worst health outcomes in the country. We have terrible heart disease rates and people die here far too young of preventable illnesses. It would be wrong of us, as clinical leaders in the community, to stand by and let these statistics continue as they are. Morecambe Bay deserves better. So, we are working with schools to encourage more exercise in the children and young people in our community. Two local schools (‘Our Lady of Lourdes, Carnforth’ and ‘Arch Bishop Hutton, Warton’, with ‘St John’s C of E, Silverdale’ soon to follow) have started running a mile a day – all children and staff! This is an amazing achievement and there are some wonderful stories emerging already of the great impact this is having on pupils and staff alike. We’re seeing huge improvements in sleep cycles, behaviour, concentration and general health. Under the banner of ‘Let’s Get Moving’ we hope that all the primary schools in the district will soon be participating in other similar initiatives. We have also started a couple of programmes of work with Carnforth High School, in line with needs they have highlighted to us. We are also going to trial a new NHS shopping list and menu to try and encourage us as a community to eat more healthily and avoid some of the unhealthy ‘bargains’ that the advertising giants try and tempt us with, cutting down on meat, alcohol, sugar and too much fat. If we don’t learn to manage our appetites and our spending habits better, we will never overcome the alarming rise in diabetes rates and heart disease. We are responsible together and really can make a change! So, not long from now, people in this area won’t even need to stress about what to cook for the week ahead, because they will be able to turn up to their local supermarket and get some really healthy and tasty ideas, all costed out and easily affordable (with huge thanks to our amazing chefs, Andy Bickle and Lee Till, from our hospital trust, working with us)! By eating more healthily and taking more exercise, we can genuinely change the health and wellbeing in this area for the next 50 years! On a different tack, our district nursing team is also beginning a leg-ulcer café for those who have been housebound. Such cafés have been proven elsewhere to break social isolation and improve healing rates for patients. All of this work is being undergirded by amazing research projects with the University of Lancaster.
As part of our on-going conversation with this community, we are hosting a further evening, alongside our Mayor, Malcolm Watkins. It will be on Wednesday 6th April, 7pm at Carnforth Civic Hall. There will be other conversations in the next couple of months in Warton (for those living in Warton and Silverdale) and in Bolton-Le-Sands, for those in BLS, Halton and the Kellets. On Saturday 25th June 2016, we will also co-host a huge Health Mela at Carnforth High School. If you live in the area, please do come along to either of these events and talk with us about what is already going on and how we can all work together to make this town and district a truly healthy place.
In my last vlog, I started looking at how we might use the 5 Ways to Well-being to help build resilience and promote health, particularly for those who work within the NHS (though it can apply to anyone). This second vlog takes a look at the being active and how it can improve health and well-being.
My last post, “Time to Face The Music” was deliberately provocative. We cannot simply keep on doing what we’ve always done or nostalgically hold onto the ‘good old days’. As previously stated, it simply isn’t sustainable and we’re only deceiving ourselves if we think it is.
We find ourselves in a a different (post flood) landscape, a terrain that requires a new way of being together. And we are fast learning, here in Morecambe Bay, that it’s not just enough to break down the traditional barriers between Hospitals, GPs, Mental Health, Community Nursing, the Emergency Services and Social Services. No, we have to go much wider and deeper than that if we’re going to develop a radically new way of working that is sustainable. We need to develop a Wellness Service that is of high quality, able to continually improve and offer compassionate, excellent, affordable, safe and accessible health and social care to everyone in our community. In order to do so, we need every person in every community to partner with us. We need partnerships with education, business, sport, justice, housing and the voluntary sector to name just a few. Old silos must be broken down and centrally driven targets must be re-examined to give communities the ability to creatively flourish together.
We need big conversations across the sectors of society about what it really means for us to be well and how we can take better responsibility for ourselves and each other. It is so much more than just physical and mental health. It must include a wider understanding of social and systemic health also (see earlier posts on this).
And this is exactly what our team in Morecambe Bay is trying to do. We’re not always getting it right and we’re learning some really tough lessons along the way, especially that our old habits of trying to fix things die hard! Real engagement takes time, but in the process of doing so, we are seeing 3 core principles emerging out of our focused work in Carnforth that we believe to be important keys to unlock this process in every community.
As we listen and engage with local people and communities, firstly we are seeing community leaders naturally rise up to make a difference and help increase the well-being of their area. We have many varied examples of amazing initiatives beginning. Secondly, we are seeing clinical leadership that is evidenced based and responsible, but empowers others to make a change. Thirdly we are seeing culture change beginning to emerge, with a more effective coaching culture and a focus on the wellness of those who deliver the care within our communities.
Conversations really matter and carry within them the dynamic potential to make significant and lasting change, as we learn not only to talk differently, but to act differently as well. In the NHS, we have some expertise, but the true experts of their own lives and communities are the citizens we serve. We must change to be much more in conversation with them rather and lose the role of ‘grandma knows best’!
Here is the first of a series of little video blogs about how we can change the culture of the NHS. The first cohort look at using the “5 Ways to Wellbeing” from the New Economics Forum to help us on our way. This vlog also gives a bit of an intro into the series, so is a little bit longer than the others which will follow.
I had the very real privilege of listening to and interacting with Prof Mike West of the Kings Fund as part of a Cumbria Wide learning collaborative a few days ago. It was utterly engaging and inspiring. His basic strap line is this: “The vision of health and social care is to deliver continuously improving, high quality and compassionate health care to all in our community.” The problem is that we’re not doing this, and we’re not doing this because there is something deeply wrong in our culture. And so how do we change a system, especially when it feels that the odds are seriously against us? How do we recover compassion? How do we envision a floundering workforce and help them to believe? Why are there some beacons of light in each organisation and some really dark holes? Why are we not learning more readily from areas of good practice and challenging those that are way below par?
There are some seriously problematic things for us to face up to, and although I love to take a ‘solutions-focused’ approach, I do believe that sometimes you have to face up to your reality before you decide to move into a different kind of future. We could talk until the cows come home about the potential dismantling of the NHS, the low morale of staff and this ‘black hole’ of debt. But what I want to focus on in this post is the cultural deficit. Previous governments have tried to address this with targets, competition and inspections, but each of these, although I think introduced with good intentions, have backfired spectacularly and driven morale lower without improving the culture at all.
Stress is defined by Mike West as a poisonous concoction of high work demand, low control and poor support. Chronic high stress levels are significantly higher in the NHS (26.8%) compared to any other sector (17.8% on average). High stress is detrimental for people’s health and a well known cause of early death. And so in an organisation in which we have 1.4 million people spending on average 80000 hours of their lives caring for other people, we are literally killing them by not caring for them. This is a paradox in an organisation which is supposed to have compassion at its core. And yet we know through significant evidence that the lower the morale and health of your team, the worse the outcomes for patients will be. Stress in the NHS and the lack of compassion with which we treat our own staff is a more significant health risk to the population than many of the issues that we give far more attention to.
So, what can we do? Are we doomed to serve systems that de-humanise people and devour them like bread? Must a system be driven by what Foucault calls ‘biopower’, ie using human beings as the fodder to drive the machine? Can the systems be harnessed and redeemed and made to work for us rather than served by us? Yes! I can say that this is happening here in Morecambe Bay and I see evidence of it in many areas. Nationally, we can take comfort from 2 things, in particular. Firstly, although the truth about our current culture is uncomfortable, the truth is now available to all, so change really can happen. Secondly, the vast majority of people genuinely want the culture to change and the dominant minority in the centre of toxic cultures can no longer hold. Mike West says systems can change, and he has gathered some good evidence to back this up. But it takes time (5-6 years), it takes focus and it takes consistency. He breaks cultural change down into 6 key elements that are well worth exploring.
6 Key Elements of Cultural Change
1) Vision, values and strategy. It is absolutely vital in order for a culture to change that the direction of travel is obvious to all. Salford Royal Hospital in Manchester have for years had the same vision statement: “To be the safest hospital in England”, and they have done it! A vision has to be clear, it has to mark ambition for the future and be able to guide and inspire the whole organisation towards change. However, it takes 5-6 years to embed this through an organisation. So those who communicate a vision to staff and then wonder why they haven’t got it yet need to understand that a paradigm shift in thinking doesn’t happen overnight. A change in direction of the rudder doesn’t turn the ship in one go. The vision needs to be communicated multiple times in multiple ways to multiple audiences. It needs to be inspiring, owned by all and makes clear commitments to the direction of travel.
2) Clearly aligned goals at every level. If a vision is to be cast, there must be measurable goals along the way, so that a team knows they are heading in the right direction. These goals have 2 key elements. Firstly they must be clear and achievable (so not more than 5 or 6). Secondly, they must be aligned to vision, measurable and challenging. People must be challenged to reach an objective, so that the process is both stretching and fun, and there needs to be celebration of goals being reached along the way. Problems emerge here when leaders don’t want to hear about problems that are being encountered. The team needs to be responsive to barriers. For example, there is no point wasting time and energy on collecting data for the sake of it. We want to collect data that actually helps improve patient care or helps staff do their job more effectively. If we want our staff to treat people with care and dignity, then we must treat our staff with care and dignity and that means listening to them and responding to them as we head into uncharted waters.
3) Leaders need to manage and engage with their staff well to gain high quality care. The high level of chronic stress in NHS staff proves that this is not happening as well as it needs to. The Kings fund have discovered some key themes from their research in this area: a) patient satisfaction rates are far higher where staff have clear goals and are working together as a team to achieve them, b) staff views of their leaders is directly linked to patients’ views of care quality, c) staff satisfaction/commitment predicts patient satisfaction, d) if staff feel high work pressure, low control over this and low support then patients will also report low staffing numbers, insufficient support, privacy and respect, e) poor staff health and well-being is directly linked to high injury and mortality rates, and good HR practices lead to lower and decreasing levels of patient mortality. Another key factor is the reduction of hierarchy. The John Lewis Partnership has consistently had the highest level of staff morale for the last 180 years. one key factor is this: there are only 3 levels of hierarchy – CEO/board/partners. Staff/partners feel empowered to make changes and they are listened to.
We are not managing our staff well in the NHS. 24% of staff report regular bullying by ‘management. Discrimination is higher especially for those of Black-African and Black Afro-Caribbean descent. It is still high for those from Asia and 18 times higher for Muslims than for any other group and is also high for those who are not ‘heterosexual’. If you have white skin, you are three times more likely to be promoted into senior leadership positions, when account for numbers is made. And despite the suffragettes we continue to see discrimination against women in certain specialties, most notably, surgery. This is not an acceptable culture. We need to change the culture. Leaders need to learn to be present for their team. Mike West puts it so well: “Leaders need to learn to listen, with kind eyes, full of care and fascination (just as we would want our patients to be listened to). We need to learn empathy, to communicate well and take intelligent action.” Engagement with our teams is about really engaging at an emotional level and this takes trust. Our management styles must change towards being far more inclusive, empowering and under-girded with our values and integrity. For staff to feel happy, there needs to be a sense of a stable senior leadership team. There should be a real sense of anger about how badly staff in the NHS are currently treated but a clear positive attitude towards affecting change. Leaders must help process negative emotion in their teams and deal with quarrelsome, disruptive behaviour that spoils the hope for a different future. Poor performance and attitude has to be challenged if we are to create the kind of culture we need and want to see.
There are many situations and systems in which an entire culture can be toxic, with top down bullying as the order of the day. Creating resilience in our teams is not about toughening people up to go back into toxic situations until they finally break. No, we need something far more creative than this. It is impossible to change a culture as a lone shark. Mike West talked about gaining ‘minority influence’ – good examples of this are found in the Feminist movement and the Green Party. A small group of committed and determined people can accomplish an incredible amount. But if the culture will not change, then wipe the dust off your feet and go and give your energy elsewhere. Systems can change if there is desire enough to change them. There are hospital trusts in the UK that report significantly higher staff morale than anywhere else. We must learn from places like Salford Royal, Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals, St Helen’s and Knowsley, Bedford and Frimley Park. Here in Morecambe Bay, where the maternity service has been at rock bottom, we are part way through an incredible cultural shift and many other departments throughout the country are beginning to turn here and ask us what we’re learning in our journey of change.
4) Learning, Quality Improvement and Innovation. This is a very straight forward point, but one to which we do not pay enough attention. Learning organisations facilitate the learning of all staff and the system itself to continuously improve. If we’re not improving, we are going backwards. We must learn to learn from failures and create a culture where this is acceptable. Learning organisations are characterized by systems thinking with information systems that can measure performance. In such a system, staff are encouraged and motivated to focus on improving quality (why would we want to do a shoddy job?). Learning is done in teams and crosses the boundaries of role and specialization and there is always dialogue going on around this. Prof West says that a key question to continually ask is this: “What do we need to change around here to enable you to be able to do your job more effectively?” We must make a promise to learn and a commitment to act. Where staff have a focus on continually improving patient care and this is embedded in the culture, targets become obsolete. Reflective practice and learning becomes endemic. All staff are accountable and all staff are enabled and empowered to bring about change.
5) Team working. Teams need clear objectives, roles, communication and learning. In the NHS, 5% of people say they do not work in a team. 40% of people feel they work in an effective team. That leaves 55% of people who consider the team they work in to be dysfunctional. Stress, injury, bullying and errors are all higher in ‘pseudo-teams’ and the mortality rates are significantly lower for patients who are cared for by teams that function well. Interpersonal conflict is a disaster for effective team and inter-team working. The Kirkup report into Morecambe Bay and the Francis report into Stafford both highlight the appalling and detrimental effects of the breakdown of relationship between consultants and hospital departments. It is estimated that up to 30000 deaths per year could be prevented by more effective team working. This conversation really matters! We have to change our culture.
To develop good teams, we must encourage positive and supportive relationships, resolve and prevent conflicts, create a positive group attitude to diversity, be attentive and really listen to our teams, encourage inter-team cooperation and nurture team learning improvement and innovation. Our teams must develop reflexivity. Teams are more effective and innovative to the extent to which they take time out to reflect upon their objectives, strategies, processes and environments and make changes accordingly. The best response to pressure is not to work even harder, but to stop, take a step back and reflect. This is true even in emergency situations, as evidenced by the pilot who handed over the controls to his co-pilot whilst he took time to assimilate his options and decide on a strategy to land US Airways flight 1549 in the Hudson river in 2009.
6) Collective Leadership. Leadership is the responsibility of all. It is for anyone with any kind of expertise to take responsibility where and when appropriate. Leadership is shared in teams across the whole community. It is interdependent and collaborative, working together to ensure high quality health and social care. This is our experience through Better Care Together in Morecambe Bay. It needs to be both clinical and managerial. The more hierarchy there is, the less opportunity there is to innovate. There are lessons for us to learn from more collaborative leadership styles like ‘The Art of Hosting’. We would do well, to take heed and learn some vital lessons from teams daring to do things differently.
Mike West finished his lecture with a very beautiful summary: Health and Social Care is about the core value of compassion. We want to create compassionate communities that listen with fascination and are empathic. We have to begin with ourselves. We need to take intelligent actions around this so that we can create the kind of cultures we want to see.