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NHS Reset – Let’s make sure patients and staff shape our new normal

Bev Fitzsimons 27 October 2020

Bev Fitzsimons considers what it means to reset health and care services, and the opportunity it presents to make listening to both patients and staff part of ‘business as usual’.

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What’s all this about resetting?

At the end of September, the NHS Confederation launched the NHS Reset campaign to shape what the health and care system should look like beyond COVID. I’ve been mulling over this idea of health and care services ‘resetting’ and what that means.  It isn’t simply rewinding and pressing play, is it? We are not back to where we were, are we? The system was already creaking, and now even more so, with the strain of a pandemic a new course needs to be set. The question most pressing on my mind is, will the people at the heart of our health and care services – the patients and the staff – be the ones to shape any kind of ‘new normal’?

So what next?

Back in July, we wrote an open letter to Sir Simon Stevens, urging him to ensure that as services re-start, they do so with humanity and compassion at their heart. We are encouraged by the NHS Reset campaign, which sets out the need to chart a new course, with relationships with people and communities at the heart. The What We Need Now publication by National Voices also reinforces the need to re-energise the patient voice, and their ‘I statements’ point people who design and deliver health and care services towards what really matters to patients, both during and beyond COVID.

The stories that people across an organisation tell form a compelling narrative about what it means to care and be cared for, and what that care needs to look like in the future.

Support for the whole system

Human brains struggle to comprehend complex systems, and this makes it hard for individuals to feel that they have the power to make a difference. But we know that when staff and patients get together and share experiences, that it creates a culture in which compassion is designed in. And this changes the individual interactions between people.

Core to our mission to humanise healthcare is listening to patient and staff stories and using those stories to help organisations design care. Experience tells us this work is most effective when we take an organisation or system-wide approach to improving care. The stories that people across an organisation tell form a compelling narrative about what it means to care and be cared for, and what that care needs to look like in the future.

We help organisations embed new ways of listening to both patients and staff. Our Schwartz Rounds and Team Time programmes have continued to support staff wellbeing throughout the pandemic by offering a structured forum for staff to tell their stories. Our Sweeney programme is all about seeing patients as people: listening to patients’ stories, understanding what is important to them, and ultimately designing a care system which holds the patient in mind.

now more than ever, we must pay close attention to the voices of the patient and family, if we are to ‘reset’ on a path towards more person-centred care.

Window of opportunity

We have been heartened by the tenacity of the teams on our children and families Sweeney collaborative, who have continued to seek to understand the experiences of young people using their services, and think about how services can best meet their needs at a time when everything has changed. The same goes for the amazing teams that are part of the Vermont Oxford Network in the US, who have been applying our co-design principles to improve the experience of neonatal care  for families throughout the pandemic.

Amidst the challenges that health and care providers have faced since COVID, many have recognised the need not simply to return to the default ‘business as usual’, but to use this opportunity to consider what matters most to patients and families.

Our Sweeney work has shown that it is still possible to involve and engage patients and families, despite not being able to physically come together. It has also taught us that now more than ever, we must pay close attention to the voices of the patient and family, if we are to ‘reset’ on a path towards more person-centred care.

All our Sweeney programmes are operating virtually and if you would like help to listen to the voices of patients and families, and make this ‘business as usual’, do get in touch. We’d love to help.