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Trading rhetoric for practical support

Patrick Cullen 25 August 2017

Patrick Cullen explores what it means to provide practical support to healthcare staff, and how we will explore this in our upcoming conference, ‘Making healthcare more human’, on 28 March 2018.


I recently attended a debate, which had the rather grandiose and optimistic title ‘how to save the NHS’; it featured a panel of experts who shared their views about what should be done to alleviate the current pressure on the system. Unfortunately but perhaps inevitably, I left feeling none the wiser about what needs to be done than when I arrived!

There is so much rhetoric in healthcare at the moment about being person-centred and providing individualised care, but in reality there is limited practical support for those who want to change those relationships but aren’t sure where to start. It’s absolutely vital that leaders in organisations espouse a vision and a set of values that resonate with their staff (who after all create the culture), but the job doesn’t end there.

It’s what comes next that matters: leaders must then demonstrate visibly and continuously that they are focused on enabling their staff to transform the way they work with patients.

That means being visible – speak to staff, understand the issues they face and make it a priority to make their lives easier.

That means equipping teams with the tools and the data they need in order to improve the care they provide.

That means paying attention to the emotional wellbeing of staff by providing space for them to reflect on their work and to build trust in teams.

And most of all, that means being patient – do all of the above and keep doing it, even if it doesn’t bring visible results straight away. Because culture change takes time.

This kind of culture change will be one of the focal points of our forthcoming conference on 28 March 2018 in London. We’ve managed to attract some amazing contributors (check out Professor Sally Maitlis talking about how following your calling can lead to burnout here) and have designed the sessions to be interactive and innovative so we’ll hopefully avoid the ‘death by powerpoint’ that I associate with traditional conferences!

We’re kicking off the day with a group of patients discussing ‘what human care means to me’ and then Performing Medicine (check out their work here) will bring the issues alive in the room through an interactive ‘forum theatre’ piece.

In the afternoon, we’ll focus on supporting staff to be at their best with patients. There’ll be interactive discussions, expert speakers and workshops; we hope the mix of formats will keep everyone energised and involved.

And to top it all off, the day will be chaired by comedian and doctor, Phil Hammond, who’ll provide his own irreverent take on proceedings. You can find out how to book your place below – I look forward to seeing many of you there on the day!

Be sure to book your tickets (below) and don’t miss our 25% off early bird offer!