Former NHS Nurse and manager now contemplating the NHS from outside

Archive for the ‘Change Management’ Category

Back

After 3 months of rest, recuperation, holidays, spending money and general enjoyment I am now back working for the NHS. Note the word ‘for’, since I am not actually part of it. I am now an independent contractor working on a project that was left unfinished. I am back with my ex boss and her small team. I am back in the same office, in the same building I left at the end of March. I have re-instated my nhs.net account and hopefully in the next few days I will be able to log onto work computers again. Yesterday I went into the office; it was to say the least surreal.

I used to look at the invoices of contractors and discuss with colleagues that they seemed to earn a lot of money for what they did. I am not sure that the rate I have negotiated is excessive, since I will have to pay my own tax and national insurance, but it is a reasonable amount. I am going to be working 3 days a week for the next few months and hopefully that will put me on a footing for more work in the future.

The building now contains several organisations, where in March there was one. I heard that the staff working in the CCGs are not always pleasant and friendly to those working for the CSU. I heard that already people are leaving, jobs are becoming vacant. I heard that a number of those who were made redundant, are like me, back working. I heard that those working in the CCGs are still trying to work out what exactly they are doing. I guess that is no surprise.

I found yesterday in the office a little claustrophobic. It is 3 months since I sat still for so long, since I sat in such a small office for so long. I think that 3 days will definitely be enough in one place. Mind you I will be out and about a lot, my job is to try to sort out the clinical groups so that they are fit for purpose in the future. I am going to finish off the job we couldn’t do last year and which predictably there currently are insufficient permanent staff to manage.

Still it is nice to be back in the world of work even if I will now have to juggle it around my expanding social life. But, I do still have some bills to pay even if I am now completely debt free!

Why are more people going to A&E?

That seems to be the question which is currently challenging health politicians and the media. Of course it is not a new question for those working in healthcare, since it is perfectly possible to track each and every attendance and episode of care that takes place. Even before I stopped being a commissioner at the end of 2011, senior managers were scratching their heads about the increase in ‘unplanned care’ and trying various methods of ‘managing activity’.

There is no doubt that attendance in emergency / unplanned care has increased, but why? The analysis we are given doesn’t tell us about when people attend, but in trying to answer the question, they point to changes in GP out of hours services. That suggests that there are no problems with the availability of GP services ‘in hours’. However, when a new Urgent Care Centre was opened in this County, it was discovered that faced with the chance to attend and be seen immediately rather than wait for an appointment at some of the less well run GP practices, people chose the former. It wasn’t all about out of hours services at all.

The lack of ownership by GPs in out of hours care is also blamed, but many out of hours services are literally owned by GPs as well as provided by them (it just isn’t obvious since they are contracted out). Of course, if you contact these services you are unlikely to see your own GP, therefore you might as well go to an urgent care facility. When you get there though, you might find yourself triaged into a GP service, where the same doctors providing out of hours care are also based. Funny how that isn’t mentioned.

Patients and their individual needs, are quite rightly being recognised as central to health provision. But with that recognition comes the realisation that people will use those services in the way that feels right for them. That might mean accessing emergency care for things that they perceive as needing attention now, even if those providing the care don’t think that is what is needed. If you feel you need to see a health professional and you know you have to plan to need it to attend your own GP surgery what will you do? Probably access a place you know is always ready to take you.

Then there are the telephone advice services – first NHS Direct and now 111. In deciding to change the focus of these services, a decision was made to completely dismantle the former in order to start up the latter. As NHS Direct ran down, then more people were referred to A&E. Everyone knows that assessment and triage of the patient are the most important parts of deciding what is wrong with someone, who is best placed to help them and what should be done. The more experienced the person doing this is (on the phone or in person), then the more effectively that problem will be dealt with. It stands to reason then that if you get rid of qualified staff before the new system is in place you are asking for problems.

Finally something that no one has mentioned. Children are some of the biggest users of emergency care. They become ill quickly, in an unplanned way. Parents rightly worry that they need attention right now and take them to A&E. We know that the birth rate has been rising steeply, we know school places are under massive pressure. I wonder if some of the increase in attendance relates to the increased number of under 5’s?

Like most issues in healthcare, this is complex. I doubt there is no easy answer nor a single cause. The propensity of politicians to blame in turn the previous government or GPs is simplistic and plainly wrong!

Business as usual

In the middle of a chaotic reorganisation we carry on regardless. We are busy supporting our network groups, arranging workshops and training, recruiting users to help with service developments and reporting on things that have been done. We are busy full stop. We work hard and we work pretty long hours between us. But, you might ask and I often ask, why? Why are we bothering to put so much effort into things that we don’t know will continue in the future?

Well partly because we are kind of required to do so. There are rules in place, there are requirements on us and they haven’t gone away. There are also people out there, clinical people, who still need our support to be able to meet together and discuss how they can continue to improve things for people with cancer. There are campaigns for early diagnosis that we are still involved with and detecting cancer and doing so as soon as possible is a priority area. We are also trying to create some kind of legacy, to make sure that what we do, what has been done continues. While people in high places continue to work out how the new world will work, we carry on working in this world.

We are interacting now with the new CCGs; the board members, GPs who are finding out about their responsibilities to their populations. They find that we do useful work, have knowledge they can’t hope (or want) to learn. They wonder how, come April they will be supported in making sure that cancer and end of life care is best commissioned.

We prepare to apply for jobs. The adverts were meant to have been released last week, now apparently it will be this. The top job will be appointed to in the next week or two and then that person (and who knows who else) will interview us sometime in the run up to Christmas. In the new year we will know more about what those with jobs will do in them and we will discover if we continue with business as usual in the old set up.

It all feels a little unreal. But of course it is real. These are real people, with real jobs, real mortgages and bills who shop in real supermarkets and go on real holidays. It is easy to write off those who work in some kind of administration. But the fact I left clinical practice enables others still seeing patients to spend as much time as possible doing so. If there are fewer of us doing those supportive jobs, either fewer patients will be seen or else fewer patients will be able to be sure that advances in implementing best practice will take place.

Those of us who get jobs in the new world of strategic networks will work hard to make sure this doesn’t happen of course. But there are no guarantees. Of course I may be wide of the mark and the new systems may be an improvement on the old ones. Lets hope so for all of our sakes!

Don’t you just love cheese?


As of today I am not really allowed to have any. I have decided to change my body and start the GI (Glycemic Index) diet. I have a book which tells me what I can eat reasonably freely or has a green light, what is yellow and what is red. Cheese is pretty much firmly within the red light area unless it is cottage cheese, which actually I don’t mind though it isn’t cheddar or brie.

Anyway, this post isn’t actually about cheese in that sense, but about a short book I was introduced to yesterday entitled “Who moved my cheese” by Spencer Johnson. It is a book about change and how we as individuals cope with change:

Who Moved My Cheese? is an enlightening story of four characters who live in a “Maze” and look for “Cheese” to nourish them and make them happy. Two are mice named Sniff and Scurry. And two are “Little-people” beings the size of mice who look and act a lot like people. Their names are Hem and Haw.

“Cheese” is a metaphor for what you want to have in life – whether it is a good job, a loving relationship, money, a possession, health, or spiritual peace of mind. And “The Maze” is where you look for what you want – the organization you work in, or the family or community you live in.

The book has had me thinking all day about the way we face change, within the NHS and about how I as an individual have been managing the latest round of new challenges which are here or ahead of us. I have to be honest and say that some of it has been slightly freaking me out this time and that is because for once I can’t actually see what the change means, it really is like being in a maze and it is scary. Who wouldn’t be anxious if working for one of 8 organisations likely to be reformed into 1 or 2, and who wouldn’t worry if the messages coming out from the centre indicate that it is not clear where your department fits into this new structure.

But actually, if you are safe in the knowledge that you are quite likely to find where you fit somewhere in the maze, and finding it might be scary but actually it will be quite interesting and challenging. If you know that you are not alone on the journey, and that you are doing all you can to make that journey a safe one, then what is there to fear?

As far as the diet goes, this is only day 1; I don’t fear this particular journey just hope I can keep it up or else I am soon going to need bigger clothes and I am not keen on that one!

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