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Making a difference?

The NHS, most public services and indeed many other organisations are living through and undergoing change of one sort or another, which is largely driven by financial, political, social or technological needs.

In the speech that Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England, made on April 1 said:

“Today we face new challenges, and will need new solutions – while holding on to the vital gains of the past.”

It is not surprising to note how frequently the words ‘innovation’ and ‘different’ are used in the media and elsewhere with the expectation that doing something new or different will make a positive difference in work that needs to be done.

In the same speech Simon Stevens went on to say;

“ … I agree with MIT’s Eric Brynholfsson and Andy McAfee that, ‘the best way to accelerate progress is to increase our capacity to test out new combinations of ideas.’ Inevitably some of them won’t work out, and there’ll be criticism and honest disagreement along the way.”

 Now I know Simon Stevens was thinking about large strategic, systems-led solutions but even those start with one person having an idea, sharing it, debating it and testing it out before anything happens.

One of the strategies being used by Greater Manchester Commissioning Support Unit (GMCSU) is through the work of a newly appointed Innovation Advocate, to encourage colleagues from anywhere in the organisation to think of different ways of doing or improving things. Or to come up with something completely new that will add value to the work of the organisation or its customers.

An innovation hub is being established at GMCSU so that all ideas can be considered, discussed and may be progressed and implemented – quickly if a simple idea, or if more complex, a business case may need to be developed before the idea is submitted for approval.

So how do you make sure that individual ideas are heard and used in your organisation? Do you have specific strategies to enable this to happen or particular times or events that encourage ideas to flow? Or is it as simple as really listening to a colleague as you work together and take further any ideas that arise?

I think it is worth reflecting in any organisation, and particularly now in the NHS, about how individuals are enabled to voice and share ideas and views on doing things differently or trying something new.

On a smaller, individual scale I do believe we can all make a difference in how we interact and react with each other, the public and anyone we come into contact with professionally or personally.

I started working in the public service of education, driven by the desire to make a difference to others. I’m now working part-time in the NHS with GMCSU as a Business Advisor/Lay member and that same desire drives me.

This drive is something I have seen from the many people I have worked with over the years in different public, voluntary and some private organisations and it is clearly apparent in the work of my current GMCSU colleagues who are making a difference directly and indirectly to the lives of others.

If you ever doubt your individual power to make a difference consider this quote by American, Christine Todd Whitman:

Anyone who thinks that they are too small to make a difference has never tried to fall asleep with a mosquito in the room.”

And to end on a more positive note a quote by John F Kennedy

One person can make a difference and every person should try.”

make-a-difference image


Change, Compassion and Connection


On Monday, 3 March NHS Change Day was celebrated. Hundreds of people in the NHS all over the country made pledges about something they would do to improve how they work. Or another way to put it is to make changes, however small, to benefit others.

At the NHS Health & Care Innovation Expo 2014 in Manchester last week I was able to see many of the pledges which were displayed there, but more importantly the enthusiasm and commitment of the people attending.

Many of the stands at the event displayed innovations using technology to integrate health and care information and to improve support for professionals and patients in many ways. It struck me that it was all about making better connections of information as well as ways to connect people too so they don’t feel isolated or alone if suffering ill health that restricts them.

One patient who felt that professionals weren’t connecting with her as a human being was Dr Kate Granger – a doctor, and a terminally ill cancer patient. In September 2013 Kate blogged and tweeted challenging health professionals to remember to introduce themselves when seeing a patient.

The #hellomynameis campaign took off and went viral in a very short space of time. Professionals across the NHS rose to the challenge to ensure that professionals demonstrated compassion by connecting with patients in this simple and human way.

To hear more about the outcomes of this initiative I recommend you spend a few minutes watching this video.

Small changes, connecting compassionately with patients and the people we work with can make a positive difference so do take a look at the pledges already made and see if you’d like to sign up for one or more of them or make your own. You’ve got until 31 March to do so here.

I’ve joined two pledges for NHS Change day. The first is “I pledge to develop my wellbeing and emotional resilience and encourage those around me to do the same”, set by Dr Alys Cole-King.

This pledge struck a chord with me as I know from experience how looking after your own wellbeing and resilience can often take a back seat when you’re striving to see some piece of work through or to help others. This is not ‘soft and fluffy stuff’, but, I’d suggest, a necessity to be a healthy human being and effective professional.

For example, I know that I need to pay attention to getting enough sleep, as lack of stamina is a big issue for me due to chronic pain, and I’m wondering what you do to help yourself to maintain your wellbeing when the going gets tough?

The second pledge I joined is “to make every contact count every day”, set by Debbie Holman from Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust.

This pledge made me wonder – am I really aware of the potential impact I can have on the people I connect with, whether that is at home, work, volunteering, shopping or through social media? I’m reflecting on how positive an experience I make these. Who have you connected with today and how did that go?

Change Day