Judging by the Twitter feeds (trending on Tuesday!) we were not the only ones inspired and motivated by the FMLM conference in Edinburgh this week. It is rare to enjoy such informed and interested debate and to be surrounded by so many from all levels of the medical profession and from outside it, coming together to examine and encourage change, in action and approach, to improve the lives and experience of patients and staff within the National Health Service.
While it was acknowledged that there were many areas that needed improvement, what struck me was just how hard everyone in the profession, not just those in leadership positions, works, often in challenging circumstances, balancing not only their responsibilities for patients but also managing staff, negotiating contracts and any number of activities that you would expect to be in the job description of others. I was also struck by how much was already being achieved by very busy, but committed staff taking steps to improve the processes and environment in their teams, their departments, their hospitals, their Trusts and their regions to bring about the change and improvement that everyone longs to see.
There is a lot of talk about the need to change culture in the NHS but I was really struck by the comment of Professor Jason Leitch, clinical director of the Scottish Government’s Quality Unit, during the final panel discussion that culture is simply what we “do” (I paraphrase). Small steps can be taken to bring teams together, to improve communication with patients and with colleagues, to listen, to support when concerns are raised, to learn from mistakes and to improve the working environment to enable staff to improve patient care. Speaker, GP Dr Nikita Kanani, earlier in the conference observed that you need good people management for flourishing organisations. By supporting staff, preventing burn out, ending isolation and helping staff to follow as well as to lead, real progress can be made.
The Faculty is plainly keen not just to facilitate enthusiasm but also to promote practical action. There was round table debate and feedback about what the Faculty could do to assist, perhaps developing bespoke, recognised training in areas affecting leadership and management, appreciating that there is a need not just during training at the start of a career but later, as leadership roles are taken on. There is no doubt that no doctor can continue to work in isolation without developing the skills to both lead and to manage effectively and successfully. It is hoped that this will be recognised and the resources and support to enable that proper training to happen provided so that the pioneering, lifesaving work that goes on in the NHS can then be a truly global flagship.
As lawyers, we see patient care when it has gone wrong; for individuals harmed, in a professional regulatory capacity or, indeed, at the heart of society in a public inquiry. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the debate to improve healthcare and rebuild the relationship between the NHS and the public by giving a different perspective and helping and supporting in whatever way we can. No one at the EICC this week can fail to have been inspired; the challenge for all of us is to transform that inspiration into action and do what we can to be the difference.