Thursday, 16 January 2014

It really is all about people and relationships - are you ready to play your part? VIA Shaun Maher

It’s all about people and relationships!

Shaun Maher writes for Alliance Scotland Viewpoint 

It’s all about people and relationships!
At the end of November 550 people gathered at the SECC in Glasgow for the third learning session of the Person Centred Health and Care Improvement Collaborative.  The delegates were predominantly staff with a background in acute healthcare however, there were also a small, but very significant cohort of people with lived experience of health and care in attendance who made a lasting impact on the delegates.
Shift in focus
The learning session was opened by Michael Matheson MSP who reiterated the Scottish Government’s commitment to person-centred care.  He was followed by Dr David Reilly from the Glasgow Centre for Integrative Medicine, who eloquently celebrated the successes and strengths of the health and care systems over the past three hundred years, but also helped us to see the limitations and inadequacies of this model for the challenges faced in the 21st Century and beyond.  His message was that we need to focus on the whole person -  mind, body and soul - in the context of their being and the things that matter to them, if we are to succeed in our quest for longer healthier lives for the people of Scotland.
Professor Jason Leitch from the Scottish Government then challenged us to make compassion reliable by focusing on the five “Must Do With Me” elements in every interaction with every person, every time:
  1. What matters to you?
  2. Who matters to you?
  3. What information do you need?
  4. Nothing about me without me.
  5. Flexibility

His message was that if we used tried and tested improvement methods to make these elements reliable, the way we deliver health and care in Scotland would be transformed. 
The improvement collaborate is designed to help teams learn how to make these things happen reliably at scale. (You can read more about Improvement Science here: )
We are listening but are we really hearing?
One of the other core messages of the learning session was that the best way to understand whether you are doing a good job, and the best place to look for improvement ideas, is to listen to the voice of lived experience.   In other words, unless we listen deeply and systematically to the stories and experiences of people who use services and supports we will not improve meaningfully, and we will not achieve our ambition.
The other voice that needs to be heard alongside the voice of lived experience is the voice of the people who deliver services or supports, the staff or volunteers  who work day in, day out,  in the reality of what it’s like to try and care or support on the ground.  If we fail to listen carefully to these collective voices we will not succeed.

Are you ready to play your part?

Two of the highlights of the session in November were Tommy Whitelaw of Dementia Carer Voices sharing his story of caring for his Mum Joan, and representatives of Glasgow Neurological Voices sharing how they had worked jointly with teams at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow to improve services.
The Neurological Voices team shared the story of how they had been invited to come into the Southern General Hospital and use their personal and collective observations to lead and drive improvement.  It was an inspiring story of a service that truly wanted to hear the voice of lived experience to inform improvements.
Tommy’s story highlighted the challenges experienced both by him and all carers and their loved ones up and down the country.  His story (  is moving and poignant, highlighting the enormous variation in the quality of the  health and care system, especially when it comes to valuing people. Yet Tommy  didn’t leave us in despair, but hope, joy and inspiration.  The things that really made the difference were the people and the relationships, when someone put their arm around and said: “you’re doing alright” or asked: “what really matters to you?”
His closing words reminded us of the power of human connections and the responsibility that  we all have to one another: “You all have a role to play in someone’s love story!”.
 It really is all about people and relationships - are you ready to play your part?

Shaun Maher, Improvement Advisor, Person-Centred Health & Care

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