With public debt at record levels the need for more productivity and efficiency has never been greater, explains Mark Sinclair,
Director of Human Resources and Strategic Change at NHS Grampian.
Will the credit crunch mean less improvement to healthcare services?
With public spending expected to decrease and demands for health care continuing to increase, we shall inevitably have to "do more with less". I actually think it will drive us to make more service improvements because every penny counts. We will need to do more with the money we have, so harder financial times can actually drive improvement rather than hamper it.
How does service improvement support the quality of services delivered?
Improving the quality of our services will be at the heart of NHS Grampian's improvement agenda. We are striving to deliver the very best care more reliably and with greater efficiency. There will be a strong focus on what is important to patients and to everyone working in NHS Grampian. We will also be aiming to encourage greater involvement of people in the design and delivery of their care.
What does improvement mean to the public?
Improvement from the public's perspective is about ensuring that care and supporting services are delivered in the most efficient and effective way and which meet their needs. The ageing population in the north-east will mean that health services will be under increased demand, and advances in healthcare technology will continue to improve our ability to care for patients. The public is essential in advising us what should be improved, based on their experience. This is all about improving the whole patient experience from initial appointment to the end of treatment.
What do the changes mean for staff?
The great thing about service improvement is that it reduces waste, inefficiencies and duplication. Consequently staff should feel less stressed because they feel they're in control of the flow of work and patients through their service. Equally, the improvements are of benefit to patients. When you're taking out wastage of time and resources, for example, reducing the duplication of forms and questions, you cut down the work that staff have to do on administration. This allows more time to care for patients, and consequently reduces the stress it places staff under.
Staff involvement is vital to these changes in fact, the most important aspect is that staff believe they can really make a difference to patients. Our staff are in the driving seat because they know where the waste or inefficiency lies, and as such are the best placed people to make the changes with patients to take the inefficiency out, whilst improving the quality of care and services.
What are the main areas that NHS Grampian is going to improve?
A vast range of areas cover the whole of NHS Grampian, for example, improving patient safety, improving operating theatre performance, improving access to services and our purchasing and leasing systems. Our staff and patients have identified areas which hamper how we deliver efficient services. This document sets out how we will improve care and services over the next three years.
Can you give us an example of what they may be?
Our previous health plans outlined just some of the improvement work done over recent years. The major improvements you should expect to see over the next three years are:
- Patients being referred for appointments/treatment more efficiently and effectively, so improving access and reducing waiting times.
- Shorter hospital stays wherever possible, people would far rather be seen by clinically appropriate staff in the comfort of their own homes.
- Improved use of operating theatres.
- Improved savings in purchasing and leasing of resources.
- Improvements in care in the community, reducing the need to attend hospital.
- Reducing delay at A&E.
- Improvement in patient outcomes.
Improvements, however, need not be huge tasks, just simple adjustments can make a big difference - such as an electronic discharge letter which is e-mailed directly to your GP from the hospital. No waiting around for hours for that brown envelope with your discharge details!
By addressing these areas, however small, it will help us improve the patient's experience, and make better use of resources and staff time. It's very much about getting everyone involved in making our services work more efficiently for the benefit of not only patients, but also staff themselves. It's very rewarding to know that you've been part of a chain of events which has spurred on change in the workplace. Some changes are small and localised, but other changes are Grampian-wide.
Can patients influence these improvements?
Absolutely! We need to learn from their experiences so we understand what works well and what could be improved. We need to work together to make the right changes that improve the patient experience. Improvement is not a one-off we need to do this continuously in order to provide quality care in an efficient manner. Patients and staff are an essential part of this process.