I have spoken at a number of events in the past week and a recurring theme has been how much, as a nation, we value the NHS.
On Tuesday I was privileged to speak at the Black Health Initiative’s Inspirational Women Conference. Speaking to a room full of “Windrush” nurses in Leeds, it was easy to feel the passion and commitment from these older ladies when I asked them “Why did you do your job”.
“To make a difference!” “Because we love it!” “It’s a vocation!”.
Fifty years later, my staff say the same sorts of things and also reflect the same Values.
The statistics from Mori that show the NHS is what makes us proud to be British, defines us as a nation and we believe delivers some of the best healthcare in the world. Fabulous slideshare on this here from Dan Wellings
I also made these points to a room full of coaches from the Leadership Academy who wanted to know about my world and how they could support people like me. I outlined that we carry accountability for something incredibly precious – the National Health Service, founded on a set of principles that we hold dear today, and inform the NHS Constitution.
“The NHS was created out of the ideal that good healthcare should be available to all, regardless of wealth. When it was launched by the then minister of health, Aneurin Bevan, on July 5 1948, it was based on three core principles:
- that it meet the needs of everyone
- that it be free at the point of delivery
- that it be based on clinical need, not ability to pay
These three principles have guided the development of the NHS over more than 60 years and remain at its core.” [Source DH]
At both of these events, I also spoke about “what the NHS is for”….how does it “meet the needs of everyone” in the 21st Century.
The stories I told were not about waiting lists, 4 hours in Accident & Emergency or prescription charges. They weren’t about “the tariff”, choice or competition. They weren’t about the local clinic, GP surgery or hospital. These are important considerations. But they are not our purpose. The stories were about the differences we make in the lives of people every day. How we are meeting their needs in a 21st Centruy Britain – “making a difference” that the Windrush ladies would value. They were snapshots from lives of the people we may pass in the street or never see behind their closed doors.
Last week I spent a day Back to the Floor with Liz (a Physio) and Alex (an Occupational Therapist) from the Community Neurology team. As ever it was humbling to see the impact they make every day; their professionalism; their kindness and their support and empathy. The on-going care that we provide for people affected by stroke and neurological conditions in our trust is precious. These sorts of services are not commissioned everywhere in the country and the outcomes in Leeds really matter.
During the day I spent with the team we helped a young man remain in work following a brain injury by spending time with him and his employer on his capability. We worked with an older lady who needed to negotiate the stairs so she could spend time with her friend after a stroke affected her balance and mobility. We spent time and therapy on an active patient about how he manages his pain and the disappointment of the changes in his life after a stroke. And we helped a Mum to rebuild her life so that she can look after her family following a cerebral haemorrhage. Each of these people were living with the consequences of something that affects them long after the acute phase of their NHS experience. Each was, in their own way, inspiring and a reflection of the challenges we face as an NHS. We know that older people and those with long term conditions are our service users now. Our purpose in the NHS is to meet their needs.
My time spent with the service also demonstrated the impact of the service changes we are making. For example, I heard about how teams are being merged as we restructure management to reduce costs, the need for better mobile technology, a desire for better integration of some services and staff building a business case to get services commissioned for vocational rehabilitation. These themes of efficiency, integration, technology and business development are exactly the same discussed in our Integrated Business Plan at the Board and at a strategic level in the city. Behind each lies that purpose – making a difference by meeting people’s needs.
And it is not only older people who I could talk about. There was also the short visit I paid to the residential course delivered by our Stammering Support Centre at Bewerley Park outdoor activity centre. This involved fifteen boys and girls working in teams with therapists. It combined physical challenges with speech therapy. Each day, working in teams they will do rock climbing and some work on bullying or canyoning and the emotional impact of stammering and so on.
It is a work of genius and the changes in the children are an inspiration. I attended the final day last year to hear presentations by the children. On arrival I was greeted by two of the boys from last year, T and J, who were on the course as mentors for the other children. Listen out for them on Radio 5 Live shortly. Through our support they had grown in confidence and stature and were showing how to “lead from every seat”. It was humbling to see how the children had developed and Laura and Jo, our therapists, described how the progress being made was amplified by the approach, the peer support and the environment. It was clear to me that we are making a difference to the lives of the children that will resonate for the rest of their lives – those who saw Educating Yorkshire will know what I mean. Imagine that 15 times over……
Then I reflected on our Board meeting and how these amazing events are described in our statistics and reports when we met this week. A dry set of “contacts”, global “patient satisfaction scores” and “expenditure against budgets” replaces the little miracles from Beeston to Bewerley Park. We are trying to address this in Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust. Working with the local University and 3rd sector organisations, we are developing measures of capturing Social Value – the real impact of our interventions. Alongside this we have a focus on outcome measures and patient reported experience in every service. Every service is also increasingly shaped by our members. Ultimately because as the NHS Constitution says, The NHS Belongs to the people. And as Bevan would recognise from its founding principles – it exists to meet the needs of everybody. Doing so in the coming years will be increasingly about creating a new service in a new system. As we do, we must cherish what the NHS is for – and why it is in our bones.
Footnote: Look at #WithouttheNHS on twitter