Change and collaboration

“Competition is really tough, but if anything collaboration is even tougher”

Now there is a quote that made me snap to attention. It felt like the start of a really interesting story and at the same time something that struck to the heart of a universal truth.

While the future of local services is undoubtedly about more integrated working, anyone who has experience of public sector partnership communications will look at you with a thousand yard stare before sharing their own bruising war stories.

The latest NHS Providers comms lead session felt like a broader look at the future of public services and a much closer examination of how heath fits into the current Venn diagram of overlapping organisations, budgets, responsibilities and governance.

Standing back and looking at heath and care services from a patient’s point of view does often leave you thinking that the current complexity and range of organisational boundaries must prove frustrating.

Will Blandamer a director at the council and CCG in Wigan offered a very powerful example of how joined up, integrated public services can handle local problems by having a coherent and understandable strategy for working together more effectively.

He made the point that we’re all running out of road and money to think that public service providers can solve all the current problems in the same old ways. He argues that future work will be about doing things differently and coming together, but also empowering others to tackle local issues in new ways.

The sheer scale of the financial challenge across public services will mean fundamental change in the very near future. Place-based working and greater integration is a solution that many will have heard before but it’s clear that the NHS cannot solve health problems alone.

In fact, we heard that as little as 10% of people’s health and wellbeing is linked to access to healthcare – the rest is about other issues like employment, housing, education and so on.

In this landscape change communications will be even more important and some interesting research by Britain Thinks offered pointers around public opinion.

Understanding the audience mood is fundamental to building any case for change at a time when the NHS is facing significant transformation.

Some of the research highlights included:

  • The public recognise the funding and workforce challenges being faced by the NHS
  • Lots of terms used by the NHS are not widely understood by the public.
  • While the NHS is seen as a cherished institution there is a widespread sense that it’s under significant strain.
  • There’s a very low level of understanding of how the current health and care system works and most of the public don’t care about how the actual system is wired.
  • Public concern is largely around access to GPs, staff shortages, perceived abuse of the system and waste/red tape.
  • Management speak and political soundbites go down poorly with the public and NHS staff.
  • The public filter out lots of comms – frontline staff are the most trusted and effective speakers.

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