Whatever the outcome of today’s election, one thing is a given – transformational change is needed for the NHS to survive and prosper in both the immediate and long-term future. Change is needed to address the growing financial, demographic and workforce pressures, as well as rising public expectations; change is needed if we are to deliver the first class health service to which we aspire.
There will be a new political landscape – both locally and nationally – and the danger is that this will cause anxiety within organisations, leading to inertia while we wait for details, clarity and guidance in the post-election environment. However, we can’t afford to wait; the challenges we currently face will not change significantly and we need to keep driving forward to overcome those challenges without delay.
As leaders within the NHS we need to be clear, strong and united about why change is needed. Even if we could afford it, a return to the old style of healthcare delivery would simply not be in the best interests of our service users. We need to make a strong and convincing case for change now.
We need to have robust facts and figures at our fingertips, alongside our demonstrable understanding of what delivering and receiving a quality health service means to the workforce and service users alike. Meaningful data helps us to develop and communicate a case for change that inspires local ownership and commitment amongst system partners, staff and the public. The NHS Confederation in their excellent publication “Reconfigure it out”[i] provides powerful evidence for the need for change, and also guidance on how to deal with resistance to change.
To inspire those who will be required to deliver new service models, possibly in unfamiliar environments, we need to share our stories of possibilities and successes, and we need to listen, really listen, to their stories, concerns and expectations for the future and, especially, their ideas for how change could work – they might just have a novel solution up their sleeve! We must make emotional connections that will engage their hearts and minds as well as craft carefully constructed arguments based on robust and meaningful facts and figures. Each conversation should instil a sense of urgency and ownership for delivering the changes that are so essential regardless of the outcome of the election. We need to make a case for change that crosses the political divide, stands up to scrutiny and weathers the political storm.
We are not salesmen pitching to potential customers, trying to sell the benefits of a new model of care. It is about so much more than that. It is sharing a common awareness of how, in our lifetime, while we have delivered, witnessed, or even been on the receiving end of, superb health services that have saved lives where previously there would be no hope, we have also seen our NHS stretched to breaking point with the inevitable associated failings in quality and care.
But we cannot delay – things will definitely not improve until we start this process of transformational change. We need to communicate the fact that delay will only make things worse, and that, while change can be hard for those affected, trying to maintain the status quo, even with promised cash injections, will only get harder. So, tonight, whilst we wait for the “swingometer” to point us towards the new political landscape, let’s not become paralysed by uncertainty and fear. Let’s concentrate on making a case for change that resonates, that is grounded in evidence, and that paints a picture of what we could achieve. For one thing is certain, whatever the result, we need to make radical changes to deliver an NHS of which we can be truly proud.
If you would like some help to develop your case for change or telling your story to help make your change happen, contact us at Kayhill Consulting.