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Unflinching in the face of crisis

Jocelyn Cornwell 18 January 2017

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I’m back at work after 6 weeks away in the sun and warmth of New Zealand and Australia to short, dark, cold days and distressing headlines about the NHS.

Like others in my generation who have worked in the NHS for 30 years, this crisis feels different. The problems are familiar; what is new is the sense of chaos, the uncertainty and confusion across the system about who is in charge, and the absence of a convincing plan for resolving the problems in general practice, hospitals, mental health services and social care.  It’s very worrying.

To my mind, one of the great risks is that the crisis undoes the achievements of the last few years. I’m thinking of the investment that trusts have begun to make in quality improvement (QI) training and the emerging interest in what senior leaders and managers can do to support and engage front line staff. My worry is that people revert to talking about the abstract ‘system’ rather than the people who do the work and the people who depend on services.

But the crisis is not a reason to change what we say or what we do at The Point of Care Foundation. We will continue to do everything we can to raise awareness of the importance of caring for staff because they care for the patients, and of involving patients directly in their own care and in improving the quality of services.  Despite the crisis, the seeds we have sown over the past few years are taking root: the Schwartz community is growing and we continue to receive inquiries from new organisations that want to run Rounds (including prisons, medical nursing schools and universities). This month the first out from the national evaluation of Schwartz Rounds (a paper on adoption and spread) has been published (the results of the whole study are expected this Spring). You can read the paper here.

Our network for heads of patient experience – the HOPE network – now has 200 plus members from all over the country and is thriving. The next meeting on 15 March 2017 will focus on the evidence that demonstrates the causal relationship between staff and patient experience. The network continues to be popular, with the event reaching near sign-up capacity already within one week.

Furthermore, whilst the eight teams that have participated in the first phase of ‘Living Well to the Very End‘ (our programme that focuses on improving the experience of patients and families at the end of life) are preparing for their celebratory learning event next month, we will shortly be  recruiting teams for the programme’s next cohort (details can be found here).

With the new year there are some changes here at the Foundation: we say goodbye to Esther Flanagan, programme manager, who has done a brilliant job supporting the implementation of Schwartz Rounds across the UK and in Ireland; Esther is moving to a fabulous new post as programme manager at Nesta. At Christmas we said goodbye to Debbie Sandford, our chief operating officer, a key member of our start-up team. Debbie is replaced by our new head of finance, Julian Groves.