Thursday, 29 November 2007

To Lower Oneself.......

Trevor and I delivered another “Trust Me I’m A Patient” role-playing workshop to 120 people on Monday at the East Midlands Hilton Hotel for the NHS ‘Improvement Foundation’. Attendees were a mixture of NHS managers, frontline staff and patients.

The objective of this workshop is to help people look at change from a different perspective; seeing change through others’ eyes. In brief, the scenario is that there are proposals for 3 GP surgeries to close and be replaced by one large, modern health centre on the edge of town. The press have published the story before patients or surgery staff have been advised of the changes. The handling of the project has been a shambles, caused through a lack of communication. It is a realistic scenario.

To date we have facilitated 18 of these workshops to more than 1000 delegates. At the end of the workshop we ask participants to complete a short evaluation form; ticking boxes to give their opinion of the workshop - very poor, poor, average, good or very good. We ask them the best part of the workshop and also what could be improved. In our previous 17 workshops, I think there has only been one ‘poor’ a handful of ‘average’ and an abundance of ‘good’ or ‘very good’ ticks.

Monday told a different story. Out of the 48 evaluation forms returned we received 5 ‘very poor’, 6 ‘poor’, 11 ‘average’, 12 ‘good’ and 14 ‘very good’. 72 participants did not fill in their forms.

Trevor and I invite criticism but we are disappointed by Monday’s response. From the ‘very poor’ forms, participants wrote that our workshop was set at too low a level, ie. for staff low down in the NHS tree, not for staff of senior level. The workshop was ‘juvenile’ and we weren’t telling them anything they didn’t already know. One person wrote that if she wanted to become an actor, she would have enrolled at RADA instead of finding employment at the NHS!

As a little girl, I never ever dreamed of being an NHS role-player and facilitator, just as probably most managers in the NHS never dreamed of being chief executives or patient and public involvement managers. Sometimes our jobs occur by accident rather than by choice but we either muddle on blindly or we develop a conscience and strive to be the best we can possibly be.

Trevor and I are committed Christians and have speculated the idea of advancing our bible study at a theological college. When we moved to a new village in July, we decided to join an Alpha course at our local church. Alpha is designed as an introduction to the Christian faith and I was uncertain that this was the right course for us. After all, there is no hesitation about our commitment and we attended an Alpha course a couple of years ago. I couldn’t see the point in taking a step backwards. Trevor was keen to do it again so we joined and I am so pleased for his better judgement. We are ‘back to basics’ and learning things we missed last time in addition to sharing our faith with others. This is merely an analogy and I am not writing this as a bible basher or trying to convert anyone [honestly]. The point I’m making is that these NHS managers might like to think about going ‘back to basics’. The workshop is an opportunity to engage with other staff of ‘lower levels’ (to use this person’s language). Sometimes, workshops and conferences are not just about what we can learn but about what we can give. Perhaps these NHS high-level people who feel that our workshop is set at too low a level for them, would consider following Sir Richard Branson’s example. He frequently returns to the shop floor – and I suspect that he learns and gives every time.

Our workshop was never designed to find solutions to NHS improvement. The answers are already within the minds of the staff and patients.


Steve said...

Hmm. The phrase casting pearls before swine comes to mind... I suspect what you were really up against was chronic cynicism, ingrained apathy and habitualized disenchantment in the minds of the employees. Their feedback says more about their own headspace than it does about your workshop... I wouldn't take it too personally if I were you!

Annie said... are such a wordsmith Steve. I feel tons better after your eloquent comment - thanks!

Trevor Gay said...

'chronic cynicism, ingrained apathy and habitualized disenchantment in the minds of the employees'

Steve – I worked in the NHS for over 30 years - your language is an essential part of every NHS manager’s job description :-)

I thank God every day I managed to escape the NHS management institutional way of life!

Sadly too many NHS managers are way too arrogant and conveniently forget they have a job and are paid a good salary ONLY because we have patients!

spinhead said...

Statisticians ignore these 'outliers', the unique examples of our best and our worst. It's highly unlikely you'd look at your best feedback and expect that to be standard, or anything more than a goal to shoot for. It's always the right thing to analyze how we could have improved a situation, but sometimes, you just ignore the outliers and move on.

In this case, it does indeed seem like pearls before swine, which is, oddly enough, the phrase which came to my mind even before reading Steve's comment ;)

Annie said...

Your wise comments are appreciated Spinhead (Joel). Admittedly my confidence was a little shaken but since this posting we've been booked to facilitate 32 similar workshops between January and March 2008... a third of them resulting this particular workshop!

Many thanks :-)