Last week I spent an interesting and thought provoking three days at this year’s NHS Confederation Conference in Liverpool, along with Louise McKenzie, Heather Caudle and Bob Peet.
It’s important sometimes to take time out to go to some of these national events where you get the opportunity to meet other senior leaders and hear the latest thinking from the top.
So what did we learn? Well, it’s very clear there is no more money. There’s no white knight coming over the hill. The politicians still believe there are more efficiencies to be had in the system and we simply have to get on with it and change our ways. We’ve done an awful lot already, and now we have to be serious about creating new models of care and really different ways of working.
I know as much as anyone that this level of change can be uncomfortable and even quite scary. We might all get the bigger picture, but no-one really likes personal change. We worry about what we are going to lose, about stepping away from what’s familiar rather than what we might gain. We’re already starting to see some of this change within our own organisation – the way we’re changing the model of care for some of our rehabilitation patients at Ashford for example - and for those reasons I recognise this is a difficult time for many members of the team.
Over the past year or so we’ve spent a lot of time talking about big transformational change, particularly the merger as a key option. At the conference there was a lot of talk of much more fundamental and basic change – more efficiencies, how we use our team and individual staff members, agency staff spend, more efficient and consistent ways of working – in other words there’s still a lot that’s within our control to change today, without waiting for some of these bigger solutions. The scale of challenge we face means in reality we’ll need to do it all, from the small efficiencies we can take individual ownership of, to larger strategic change and transformation we are looking at organisationally.
On the upside, if we can be on the front foot of some of this now then we have the opportunity to shape things to suit our own vision of the future, something that really works for the team. What we really need are creative individuals to be out there beating the path for change; quite simply, if we don’t release the savings ourselves, someone else will do it for us and I don’t think that’s really a place any of us want to find ourselves in.
As an executive team we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and how we can all work together to develop the right transformational culture for the wider team. And we’ve come up with the two Cs – Curiosity and Creativity. Our culture needs to develop its curiosity, moving from a place of incremental change (although the detail is still important) to one where we have a whole cultural approach. By being curious – about everything – we can begin to surface areas for change, where we can apply our creativity.
Overall our time in Liverpool was a chance for some wider reflection and a good opportunity to meet lots of senior leaders and hear what other organisations are doing. From listening to the Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt describing his vision and thoughts, especially his ambition for the NHS to be the safest health system in world, to hearing the most amazing clinician from North America talking about revolutionary changes in cancer care - where immune therapy, directly targeting individual cancers, could eventually replace existing treatments such as chemotherapy and radiotherapy. And all through the talks about money and change, we were reminded that despite it all, the NHS is still trailblazing and a national institution to be immensely proud of. We mustn’t forget that.
Finally, Bob and I particularly enjoyed one of the last sessions hearing how our military colleagues had responded to the Ebola crisis in Sierra Leone – as ex-military personnel we felt both proud and humbled to hear their story.
There’s lots of material available from the Conference on the NHS Confederation’s own website – I’d encourage you to take a look. Start to develop your own curiosity - you never know where that could take you.
In the meantime, have a great weekend.
With best wishes,