What I learnt this week: Maximising the social capital of the NHS #WILTW

This is the 80th #WILTW 

The financial challenge facing the National Health Service is huge. In the first quarter of this year it overspent by £1.62 billion. This is a difficult figure to comprehend so here is a comparator by John Appleby of the King’s Fund

“Alternatively, the NHS could have saved £1.62 billion by not paying NHS consultants for 5 months; or registrars for 10 months; or nurses for 2 months; or senior managers for 26 months…”

Even the additional funding in the recent spending review is only going to steady the ship for a short period; leading many to question will it ever possible to balance the books? While delivering economic stability may not be felt to be within the remit of health care professionals we must have some responsibility. But how?

This week Roy Lilley and colleagues celebrated the inaugural Academy of Fabulous NHS Stuff awards [1]. The event celebrated the sharing of practical innovation and effective healthcare delivery. The underlying tenet was very similar to that of NHS Change Day. How can we share and learn from what we already do rather than spend more money only to repeat mistakes or unnecessarily create a bespoke ‘local’ version? Joe McCrea had initially introduced me to the idea of capturing the NHS’s social capital. This is not easily defined but to me is the value ascribed to the knowledge that already exists within staff and organisations. It is not always financially tangible but the ‘product’ should be able to be described. Examples of this are the paired learning initiative of bringing together junior doctors and managers or the “pre-loved” idea from Milton Keynes whereby furniture is actively re-distributed around the trust rather than being thrown away.

Social Capital

The Academy of Fabulous NHS stuff website and Change Day stories are a great example of the sharing of social capital. However their impact is only as good as the relevance of the information to others on those sites. The opportunities to use the social capital of the NHS are everywhere however. From a simple handover of the overnight take to a more formal review of a service we are, to some extent, utilising the knowledge and skills of our staff. Choosing to listen to what is being said, and responding and replicating to initiatives and ideas that work, may well be the way that all staff can contribute to financial challenges ahead.

What have you learnt this week? #WILTW

[1] Award ceremonies are a polarising phenomenon. Many believe the celebration of achievement is an important moral boost and creates a positive culture while others think the cost involved is not balanced by any tangible gain. To mitigate this the event was held at no cost to the participants and had a focus on pragmatic revelery rather than traditional ‘three-course’ dining but ultimately the cost of the event was balanced by obvious sponsorship. My gut feeling is the benefit of the event outweighs the counter-concerns but appreciate the jury is still out on this.

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