Pledge power: how Change Day is inspiring the NHS

Jenny Hicken, a Network Delivery Facilitator for NHS England’s Northern Clinical Networks and Senate on Tyneside, looks at some of the incredible pledges being made for NHS Change Day which launches at the Health and Care Innovation Expo on March 3:

There are few things more heartening as an NHS employee than reading the ever-increasing list of pledges on the NHS Change Day website.

Just when some sections of the media would have us believe the NHS is staffed by incompetent, poorly managed, overworked teams who couldn’t give two hoots about the patients in their care, the pledges of fast-approaching 100,000 people are the reassuring proof otherwise.

Alongside some of the more practical pledges, including several promising to give blood, undertake charity ventures or, brilliantly, one offering to provide two microwaves for a King’s College Hospital ward, the pledges that really stand out for me have a real focus on patients; a real focus on CARE.

Staff at Nottingham Children’s Hospital have made a whole raft of lovely pledges, including some organisational and clinical ones which of course will provide huge benefits and improvements, but I was most touched by this one from ‘Steve’, pledging to cheer up the children in his care: “Make at least one patient laugh per shift”.

This, along with many others pledging to smile, play, dance, support, encourage, comfort, help and engage the young patients at the hospital are truly heart-warming and show just how much the staff making the pledges recognise the importance of these simple touches in enhancing the children’s patient experience.

Special mention must go to paediatric SHO Kiran, who promises to have “stickers available at all times to reward the children’s bravery“. As a mum of a three year old, I can personally vouch for the power of stickers in lighting up a little face!

Many staff are pledging to make a change for the better in spite of the pressure they may be under – being busy should not necessarily be a barrier to change. Gregor Purdie from University Hospital Southampton has vowed the following: “I pledge that no matter how busy the day is, I will take the time to assist patients or visitors that look lost or confused, and will do so with a smile”.

It can be all too easy to rush around, concerned with your own business, no matter where you work. Gregor’s pledge should make us all think about being aware of what is going on around us – with patients, their families, and our colleagues – and take the time to offer support when needed, not when it is convenient for us.

A member of staff from Burton Hospital has summed up wonderfully how important it is to care for each other as colleagues, pledging “to work together and remember that we’re all busy but be kind to each other”.

It’s all too easy to feel the pressure and take it out on our team-mates, to not take proper breaks because we’re too busy, or find it difficult to let go at the end of the day. A philosophy of taking care of our own physical and mental health, and watching out for that of our colleagues, would be a positive change a lot of us could make. Happy staff leads to happy patients.

There are some great pledges highlighting the power of networking and the rise of social media in our day-to-day work. Ruth Davies of Milton Keynes Hospital is pledging to “finally make a Twitter account so that I can help promote Change Day and the wonderful work and ideas that it is inspiring”.

I’ve been singing the praises of social networking so much in my office, I’ve been asked to train the rest of the team to use it – change in action!

Clare Helm, fellow NHS England guest blogger, has made a lovely pledge showing how online interaction can foster some real working relationships, even across the country: “To meet as many of my ‘Twitter family’ as possible at NHS Expo 2014 and have really meaningful conversations, sharing what I can and learning as much as I can”.

I have heard a great quote from one of our local GPs that ‘networking no longer just happens in a room’. Every one of us working in the NHS are colleagues, regardless of whether we work in the same building or not, and platforms such as Twitter really break down these physical boundaries to allow us to interact as never before. Of course, events such as Expo enable us to put a face and a handshake to the online persona.

I will leave you with one last pledge which I think all of us should aspire to, regardless of our role within the NHS. It comes from Vikki Cochran, who works in Information Governance for South Devon Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

She brilliantly says that ‘IG can be seen as a bit boring but actually it is key to providing safe patient care’. I would urge all of you to keep her pledge in mind: “My pledge is to make sure that I keep the patient at the heart of the work that I do”.

Sound advice.

Jenny Hicken

Jenny Hicken is a Network Delivery Facilitator in the Northern England Clinical Networks, and is part of the Mental Health and Dementia Network team.

She is currently working on projects addressing the wellbeing of vulnerable groups, and represents the Network team on the North East and North Cumbria ICS Zero Suicide Ambition Steering Group. She also keeps a hand in with the Maternity Network team, with whom she has worked closely on a number of pieces of work.

Jenny lives in Newcastle upon Tyne with her husband and two young sons, and has worked in the NHS since 2009.

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