Durka Dougall: Transformational change in health and care

This content relates to the following topics:

Part of Transformational change in health and social care

Article information

  • Posted:Thursday 03 May 2018

In the opening session of our Eighth annual leadership and management summit, senior fellow, Dr Durka Dougall, asks what it takes to lead successful health and care transformation. She reviews the findings from our recent report, based on personal experience and interviews with four UK and international case sites.

Video transcript

We at The King’s Fund have been calling, since 2012, for transformation. And particularly a type of transformation which is a reform from within – so, the empowerment of staff and communities to lead transformation.  

So, our report has delved into that aspect of lived experience, something which is relatively less focused on in the literature. We’ve picked four sites that are purposely selected to cover primary care, mental health, acute care and community care. 

So, the Bromley by Bow Centre, that works in East London in one of the most deprived boroughs, to forge new and better ways of meeting the needs of their local communities. 

They’ve been growing organic solutions, they’ve been building on assets and really creating new and better ways. So, they talk about having hundreds, thousands of visitors, endless research and yet still, across the country they’re seeing what they saw in Bromley by Bow decades ago.

And they are asking us to review how we learn as a health and care system. Is it that we’re focusing too much on their models and its uniqueness or trying to replicate it directly into a context that won’t directly fit? Or actually, what they say we need to do, is focus on their approaches, their principles and their experience for that is what will transform health and care. 

Birmingham and Solihull NHS Mental Health Trust, the rapid assessment interface and discharge service. So, this team have been working tirelessly to transform mental health care in acute hospitals by positivity, by using data to motivate and inspire staff, to be using their insights about human behaviour to understand what opportunities lie ahead, and in that they’ve achieved a lot.

But the fascinating thing that they kept saying to us is ‘Don’t look so much at that, there’s so much more to do’. And what they flag is that there is a need to unlock the potentials even more in areas like parity, diversity and technology.

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust created a brand new, purpose-built facility to transform emergency care across a large geographical area. The fascinating thing about this story was their tireless dedication to quality. And what they say is, the NHS is exceptionally risk averse at the moment. It doesn’t want to hear about failures, it just wants success stories. 

And what they’re showing is that they’ve not been swayed by the challenges they’ve faced, that actually the efforts don’t stop when you face a hurdle and it’s not about praise – those are not end points. Both success and failure are points along a journey and the focus should be on quality.

And finally, our model from Buurtzorg, the Netherlands, that was created by a nurse leader. He felt that the political structures, the management structures, the bureaucracy was reducing the autonomy and ability of staff to provide quality care.

And they created a simple structure of a small, self-regulating community nursing team to care for patients in a quality way, supported by clinical coaches, supported by IT and supported by administrative offices.  

And what they’re challenging us to do is to look at our systems and ask – are they enabling or are they hindering staff to provide quality? 

What are the implications for the health and care transformation system?  

The first take home message is that we need to transform our approach to transformational change, rather than looking for single solutions or a road map. Actually to be comfortable with the chaos. It’s about, instead, really focusing on our purpose.  

The second is that there are opportunities to unlock, but that involves understanding lived experience and enabling people to give their very best. 

The key message coming from all the stories is that there are barriers to overcome. The structures that currently exist are not always helpful in enabling people to provide quality and to provide transformational change. That’s the funding, the training, the regulation, the organisational cultures, the power dynamics – simple things – and we think three things are key. 

First is the provision of support, skills and confidence for individuals, teams, organisations and systems.

Second, we need to look collectively at the structures. We need to think how best we can join up the system locally, but nationally as well.

And finally we need a transformational leadership. That’s not a single person, that’s an approach, that’s the ability to work skilfully within this landscape, to unlock the potential of people both staff and communities to provide quality across health and care.