Involvement is more than a survey or email, it’s a long term cultural and behavioural commitment
It is often said that the only constant in life is change. In health and social care settings the drivers of change are often patients and service users themselves. The clinical, environmental and social demands, e.g. population change, dictate a cycle of constant evolution in health and social care delivery if quality standards are to be improved and or maintained.
Despite being a constant, change in any form can be an unsettling concept for many people. Indeed, in healthcare settings if change is not planned with the needs of the patient, service user and staff at its heart then it can be destabilising, demotivating and detrimental to the wellbeing of individuals and teams. The consequences of which may have a life changing or even life threatening impact.
Involving patients, service users and staff in the identification, planning and delivery of change management strategies is a vital component of success. Patients and service users are often the biggest advocates for change and some of its most inspirational and enthusiastic champions. Finding mechanisms to bring staff and patients into contact to discuss agree and build care processes allows the enthusiasm for change to be multiplied and for organisations to align care processes around the needs of those that use and deliver them.
Involving patients, service users and staff in the identification, planning and delivery of change management strategies is a vital component of success.
In this way, we start to create services that align to patient needs, and are delivered by staff already enthusiastic and willingly take on the challenge. The appetite for this is already present, as reflected by Nursing Times last week, when they ran an article highlighting a recent debate which showed that 78% of the nurses who attended, felt the health and social care sector is not person centred enough. Staff are telling us they want to deliver a more person centred health and social care service, but they need support to drive involvement and engagement activities, to turn this desire into action.
Whether involving patients in steering groups, improvement work, co-designing services, communicating improvement initiatives or actively listening to their views and experiences, patient input and involvement plays a vital role in delivering lasting quality improvement. This year I sat on the judging panel for the Positive Practice in Mental Health Awards, where many of the initiatives submitted conveyed this message well, and serve as great examples of organisations successfully using involvement to deliver effective and efficient care quality solutions.
Over time more improvement programmes like our Always Events® collaboration with The Institute for Healthcare Improvement and NHS England, will support stronger stakeholder involvement and engagement in healthcare. The programme translates the expressed needs of service users and their families- the principles that underpin person centred care, into the redesign of specific care processes. It uncovers, gains consensus for and embeds, the elements of a particular care process that must always happen to ensure a positive experience of care for patients and service users. This type of approach not only involves care users and care givers, but it aligns them in a practical and tangible way. Care processes are reshaped within current resource envelopes, yet result in higher quality person centred care, delivered by more engaged and empowered staff.
Whether involving patients in steering groups, improvement work, co-designing services, communicating improvement initiatives or actively listening to their views and experiences, patient input and involvement plays a vital role in delivering lasting quality improvement.
As we look to a future of increased challenges for our health and social care services, we must find the courage to trust those that deliver and receive care to lead the change required. In doing so we must also look critically at the current tendency for what is often tokenistic patient and service user representation, embracing ways to routinely and systematically involve care users at all stages. Not simply in their own care, but in the co-creation of processes, pathways and networks that release patient resource, expertise and passion. It is only by releasing this potential as part of wider health and social care strategies that the system will be able deliver what service users want.