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I am a believer, a supporter, a champion of NHS Change Day – Michaela Firth

Michaela Firth, a Quality Improvement Lead for Children and Maternity services with Thames Valley Area Team’s Strategic Clinical Network, explains why she is supporting NHS Change Day due to be launched at Innovation Expo:

As an avid tweeter I have been following the awareness and interest growing for NHS Change Day 2014. There have been real conversations starting and ideas generated.

As with any initiative, there will always be those who do not support, those who challenge, and those who may even wish to undermine and destabilise. Anyone who puts so much passion into their actions needs consideration. They need listening to! Passion, be it positive or negative shows a real interest.

Such polarised opinions and views are very valuable. It is the opposite view that gives us rich insight, and perceptions. By being fully aware of both sides of the story, you can begin to understand. So I wish to understand the negative, to help me make a change for the positive.

Now, along with my vision of possibility, I am also a realist. I am aware of what could be better with the NHS. We’ve heard about poor care, we know there can be fragmented services and poor staffing numbers on wards. We hear the patients ‘ask’ for compassion and respect. We understand a mum with a sick child does not want to wait in A&E for hours on a Friday night. We know some people don’t die where they wish. We know people don’t always get the food, the drugs and the care they should. We know that people’s voices are not always heard. We know some things are not right and must be improved….. But do you REALLY think NHS staff wake up each day with a plan to do a terrible job? I don’t.

We MUST listen to what people tell us, LEARN from it, keep communications channels open and do our best to FIX THE PROBLEM. And share this with others. We MUST look to what is good, yes learn from what didn’t work, but look for what DOES work. A ‘Good NHS story’ may not sell papers, but it will do a lot for the morale and motivation of the staff. As well as do a lot for the confidence and anxiety levels of a patient.

So, my first pledge is:  Learn from things; LISTEN and turn a negative into a positive learning opportunity.

Last week I heard a lady share her experience of a hospital stay. She said: “The happy staff treated me much better than those who were stressed and unhappy”.

Another lady reminded me of the power of ‘body language’ when she said:  “If you are asking me about me (my health), please have the decency to look me in the eye”.

What a timely reminders of resilience of staff and improving communications. We must embrace and support the NHS staff, find the good, the best practice – seek it out, find it and share it.

It’s not that hard! You will find the notice board in a ward, on which are pinned ‘Thank You’ cards. Consider the smiles and the appreciation when we deliver the service the patient expects. The relief on faces when something is done as promised. For every negative story we are faced with, we should find more that are positive. And treat your colleagues with respect.

One of the key elements of NHS Change Day is the power of sharing the great in our NHS, the positive reinforcement of what the NHS is doing!

Pledge idea number two: Let’s celebrate the good and share success.

I am proud and also thankful.

I am thankful for the skilled and steady surgeon in Oxford who removed a brain tumour troubling my dear friend. Thankful for all the compassionate, professional staff who cared for my mum when diagnosed with breast cancer, the nurses who administered radiotherapy with care and respect, the compassion and insight of our  District Nurse who quietly told me it was ‘not a good idea to be too far away from my Mum’ as she ‘didn’t have long left’. This allowed us to spend time as a family, with my mum, at home for her last days. Giving my Mum the peace she wished for and, in the place she wanted to be.

I am thankful for the midwives who safely delivered my two boys, those who cared for the older one in a Special Care Baby Unit. Thankful for those who supported me with dignity and empathy when I miscarried a baby. Appreciative of the caring and compassionate nurse who sat and spoke to me about whether I wished to have the baby’s name recorded in a ‘Book of Remembrance’.

I am thankful to the GP who listened to me and promptly referred me, on a snowy Christmas Eve, for diagnostic tests. Thankful to the consultant who held my hand as I cried when I thought I had the same cancer that so cruelly took my Mum.

Thankful for the care in A&E, very late at night when my Dad was rushed in with suspected appendicitis, the porter who accompanied me to the tea machine when I was tired and lost. The nurse, that placed her hand on my Dad’s shoulder, when he was frightened and worried about an impending procedure.

These are just a few of MY experiences. I am sure you and your families have your own.  So just imagine the positive experiences of the MILLIONS in our country since 1948!   Just think of what you value in your NHS and see what YOU can do to ensure others experience just that.

Pledge idea no 3: Be thankful for our NHS – tell someone ‘thank you’ when they do something for you. Encourage your family and friends to join the ‘Thank you’ Campaign.

We MUST remember these stories, the good and the bad. Bring these to mind as we work, as we communicate, as we share and we re-build our networks and community. I am in no way making any excuse for what may have gone wrong and I feel so desperately sad and disappointed for anyone who has experienced poor quality or unsafe care. But we MUST consider the good too.

Be ‘Proud of the NHS’, proud of what is happening each and every day in practices, ambulances, hospital wards, the community …proud of emergency practitioners working through the night, those on call for potential emergency, those who even when disheartened and tired deliver good quality care, those who plan and improve services, those who keep our hospitals clean, who manage our finances. Be proud of those who wish to make a change.

Please join me in being proud, be positive and let’s do our utmost to change and improve our NHS. So please consider what YOU can do! Be it as simple as pledging to smile, to spend a day listening to staff / patients, share some learning, and recycle!  Spend money like it was your own money, only commission or provide services you would wish your family and friends to receive! Treat others like you would want your mum, your dad, and your children to be treated.

And yes, those who say: “We should be doing ‘it’ anyway” are right. We should. Most of the time, I believe we do. But NHS Change Day can act as a reminder of what we should do, what we could do!  We can all make a difference and contribute to a greater good, our NHS

Please visit nhschangeday.nhs.uk, take a look and do what you want to create a positive change. But do something!  BE POSITIVE, BE PROUD, and PLEDGE.


Image of Michaela Firth, Quality Improvement Lead for Children and Maternity services with Thames Valley Area Team’s Strategic Clinical NetworkMichaela’s career started in Milton Keynes Hospital Pathology lab when it opened in 1984. She studied biochemistry and worked in both private and NHS laboratories before taking up roles in customer service, sales and marketing, during which time she gained post-graduate qualifications in marketing and public relations.

Since rejoining the NHS in 2000 Michaela has held various roles from PCTs, to Dept. of Health, including Communications Manager for NHS Direct, Assistant Director for Southern National Primary Care Development Team supporting PCTs with quality improvement and facilitating change. She programme managed for the South Central PCT Alliance including work to determine behaviours of patients utilising urgent care services. She also lectures and trains in social marketing and has contributed to key documents for the Department of Health and the National Social Marketing Centre.

During a secondment to the Department of Health as a National Coach, she worked with Sir John Oldham, supporting NHS QIPP Long Term Conditions and Urgent Care programmes.

Her current role is in NHS England for the Thames Valley SCN, allowing her to capitalise on her networking passion and develop the network for change and improvement in the area of Children and Maternity services – subjects both very close to her heart.

She is closely involved in spreading the messages of NHS Change Day 2014 having been part of the core team for the first NHS Change Day last year.

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2 comments

  1. Yes Michaela, your blog was really uplifting and encouraging. Thanks!

  2. Alison foster says:

    Excellent Michaela! Love your passion and insight!