Collaboration Toolkit – NHS – Case Study 4

The NHS has to work hard at getting the most from its scarce and high value resources and whilst one hears many negative things about this institution in the news, I am amazed at the complexity of what takes place. If it was a business it would be very challenging to run; walk into any hospital and the diversity of services and needs of its patients is huge. Rationalising and reshaping services and facilities is critical for ensuring the most effective and efficient use of resources but is not an easy thing to do.

I was thrilled to be asked to help out and deliver a collaboration toolkit that supports improviCollaborationng collaborative aspects of the service. The need was being driven through Healthier Together, Southern Sector Partnerships and sponsored by Health Education England (North West) Forerunner Fund.

The effectiveness of the service depends heavily on the people providing it. Patient centricity is observable in the behaviour of dedicated professionals time and time again across the NHS. One can never argue with the intent of a professional health practitioner but even strengths when overdone can be a potential weakness.

In business we coin the phrase opportunity cost. In the health service one person’s perception of patient centricity may be different to another and indeed each patient will have different needs. This happens at every level and the toughest question of all (that I learned from my father who was in the service) is “where do we focus our energy and resources for a greater good?” that focus will always have consequences. For example one person’s drive for patient centricity could have the unintended consequence of diminishing a wider team effect or greater good because of over focus on one patient. Working in partnership and collaborating effectively is a good thing to do; my view is that within the NHS lives depend on getting collaboration right and focussing time and attention on it a prerogative; it feels synonymous with “Healthier Together.”

I was thrilled to be working with the NHS to develop a collaboration toolkit enabling a critical appraisal of actual or planned collaborative activity aligning naturally available NHS resources and enabling SMART action planning. There were challenges. The brief was not entirely clear; so many things had been changing during the evolution of Southern Sector Partnership at the time and some other related work streams had stalled. I worked with colleagues to establish an approach that could be deployed for different levels of collaborative activity ranging from two health professionals working together through to major organisational realignment.

The key driver for the Southern Sector Partnership Medical Director was to ensure collaboration of skills and knowledge shared to improve effectiveness and efficiencies in the service.

I decided to focus at a principles level; truths that would work for any form of collaboration and went onto research the topic further, finding some fabulous resources from within and outside of the NHS. I developed a mini audit based on established principles enabling critical thought around current/proposed collaborative working. This was honed with insights from the Director of Strategic Partnerships, Medical Director and Programme Managers for Southern Sector Partnerships as well as a colleague from ODISS LTD. The result is a tool that can be used at a high level or explored to a deep level to identify key actions required to enable better collaboration.

The toolkit maps to the Nine Dimensions of the NHS Leadership Model so that resources naturally aligning to its competences can be deployed to build leadership skills neccesary for creating the conditions for collaboration.

The tool has now been published by the NHS Leadership Academy on behalf of Health Education Northwest and available throughout the NHS network.