A different week this week, as I took 4 days off, before spending Friday visiting the IC24 integrated urgent care contact centre on Friday.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, Caroline and I had a night away in the Midlands, visiting pottery museums arond Stoke and the National Trust’s Wightwick Manor. The picture above shows just a small selection of Josiah Wedgwood’s many experiments to find the perfect blue. NHS graphic designers might empathise!
On Thursday evening I headed south from Leeds to Ashford, Kent, where I met up with Jacqui, Marie, and Gareth ahead of our Friday visit to IC24. In another pandemic milestone, this was the first time that Jacqui, Gareth and I had met in person since I took on my urgent and emergency care (UEC) role almost a year ago.
I learned loads on the visit, as I’m sure did my colleagues. The highlight was the privilege of listening in on live 111 calls. I’m always in awe of how 111 call handlers calmly talk people through difficult moments and get them the help they need.
There were some fascinating insights from the IC24 team about how our clinical decision support system, NHS Pathways, makes urgent care safer by prompting health advisors and clinicians to overcome the biases that can impair anyone’s decision-making, regardless of their experience.
I was impressed by the way IC24 and its partner organisations learn from patient surveys and service analytics to pinpoints areas for continuous improvement. It was telling for me that quite often the first sign that something could be better comes from patient or staff experience feedback, and that prompts a deeper investigation. There was also some great work on diversity and inclusion in the workforce, and use of data to identify inequalities in the care of the populations they serve.
IC24 show what’s possible when frontline staff have on-going input and influence over the technology they use to do their jobs. That’s quite rare in the health and care sector, and something we need to cherish and spread.
And I was struck by comments from Tim, our national director of transformation, who talked about 3 kinds of continuity in care. The first is “information continuity”, such as access to GP records for 111 health advisors – a lot of our work as national teams focuses on promoting and enabling that. But there’s also “management continuity”, so that patients are not confused by different advice from different healthcare professionals, and “relationship continuity”, as in the way that advisors build rapport with callers while asking the first questions from NHS Pathways. I’m going to think a bit more about how we can support the latter two types of continuity.
I’m due back in Quarry House on Monday, and I can see from my inbox that there will be a lot to do for planning and budgeting for next year. A few things I plan to focus on:
- Celebrating milestones met, and supporting teams where we’ve not been able to deliver what we first expected, mostly because the world has changed since initial plans were made, and adapting priorities is the right thing to do
- Continuing to connect the UEC and digital platform strategies, and ensuring we still make progress on “no regrets” work that we can get on with while strategy for some areas remains unclear
- Talking about the patient and staff experience, and how user needs are the start of everything – this was really reinforced for me by the Ashford visit.