‘You know my name, not my story. You’ve heard what I’ve done, not what I’ve been through’
As we reach the mid point of the hospital handover collaborative, teams are getting ready for learning session 2 which takes place at the home of the super whites (for those of you who aren’t from Bolton that’s what Bolton Wanderers football team used to be called!) this Friday.
Late last week I spoke to Katharine Goldthorpe our Head of Improvement and she said: “I think the collaborative is working it’s magic!” We are seeing teams coming together from A&E departments and from NWAS sectors to really get a grip of the issue of hospital handover and corridor queuing. We’ve seen visual management systems emerging and a much sharper understanding of the challenges for both NWAS and A&E staff. Teams are appreciating the opportunity to work together for patient benefit. On Friday they will be sharing their learning with one another and stealing ideas shamelessly from one another. This is the essence of an improvement collaborative in full swing.
Since the last learning session there has also been a lot of activity in the leadership space. The Chief Nurse for the North of England Jackie Bird spent six hours with myself and Angie Hansen (NWAS Chief Nurse) going around A&E departments on Wednesday evening and will be joining us at the learning collaborative to share her insights and observations.
On that night we saw the best and worst of winter. We saw staff working tirelessly to deliver care but we also saw chaos as patient numbers simply overwhelmed the available resource. We saw senior leaders in the A&E departments helping patients and moving beds. It’s November!
The collaborative is an opportunity for teams to take time to think. To stop and ask ‘how can we work smarter not harder?’ It’s not some management consultant advising you on what to do, it’s real staff who do real work, working smarter. The teams on Friday will be honing their testing, process mapping, reviewing data and taking a look at capacity and demand. They will leave with more ideas and a sharper sense of what they are going to do over the next 30 days.
I am sure there are people reading this now thinking – ‘not for me’ or I can’t go because my team hasn’t even started yet’. My ask of you is to put those doubts behind you and walk the line. Just take two minutes to walk up and down the queue in your A&E department and look at the expectation on people’s faces.
Patients and relatives alike are looking to us to find new solutions. They trust us and we must go beyond all current expectations. This requires us to dig deeper. A small number of teams have cracked this with handover times consistently less than 26 minutes despite unprecedented demand. We will hear from them and how they are pushing even further. Our NHS workforce need us to do this, the current system is exhausting.
When anything feels overwhelming we should never underestimate the power of a few committed people taking small important steps.
Finally, on my walk round I met Albert, a war veteran sat on a plastic chair by an automatic door wearing his beret and military medals. When asked if he was ok his son said ‘we’ve been here for hours’ he was freezing cold and invisible. The hustle and bustle of the department was described by one paramedic as ‘less organised that a field camp in Basra’.
I was reminded of the quote above and thought we should maybe use it as a rallying call to all of us. We are in this together – one day we too will be in Albert’s shoes. My hope is that on that day I am greeted with a smile, taken to a comfortable seat, kept warm, given a cup of tea, checked on regularly and given to the treatment I need so that I can get back home as soon as possible. Not a big ask really and I’m guessing this is what most of us want? We can do this.