What is transformation in health and social care?

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What is transformation in health and social care?

A good question to reflect on at the start of a new year. The word ‘transformation’ is at risk of becoming another well used but ever more elusive concept as it becomes part of our everyday language in the world of health and social care.  Somehow despite our best efforts the thing we seek to develop becomes harder to pin down.

This past year saw some of the pieces of the transformation jigsaw come a bit more into focus as I’ve grown in to my role within the Health and Social Care ALLIANCE and the House of Care programme in Scotland.

 In the House of Care programme, we use the T word a lot as well as coherence, person centredness, self management and sometimes even compassion. It’s a funny word – sometimes people move towards it in conversation and sometimes not. For me it’s a very important and fundamental jigsaw piece and I like the definition of compassion from Dr John Gillies, co-director of the Global Compassion Initiative and former chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners,

“an acknowledgement that a person or individual is suffering or unhappy and having the intention to take action to address that”.

Sometimes compassion gets a bad press as soft and fluffy – a luxury if you like in the real world of health and care but I don’t agree. It’s at the heart of the care and support planning conversations in the House of Care adopter sites across Scotland where prepared people and prepared staff develop a different kind of conversation.

It works best when there is a shift of intention towards sharing the power in the relationship and really supporting the person to be in the driving seat of their care and support.

It was heartening to read the recent social work report ‘It’s no longer them and us –it’s just us’, which also echoes the importance of co-production within a good conversation:

‘The relationship between the assessor and the assessed person is the foundations – it’s so important. It needs good communication – especially good listening – and honesty. Processes and systems should be built around this and enable it, rather than getting in the way.’

Hopeful signs perhaps that policy and practice in health and social care integration really are beginning to converge with the person at the centre.

We say we want a more human compassionate approach but when budgets are perceived as tight, services like this, which have high levels of support and satisfaction from people and their families are often cut; struggle to survive on short term funding; or are perhaps not even funded in the first place. Those services and staff are often judged against a reductionist effectiveness model, leaving the third sector to be the fertile ground for more person centred approaches and services that are informed by the voice of lived experience. We need a third sector that is truly an equal partner in health and social care.

But how can this shift in relational care be more clearly measured and evidenced? Sir Harry Burns is chairing a national review of indicators and targets. We must measure the process and the day to day business of the effectiveness of the systems but we need to include the voice of lived experience if we really want to understand what good care and support means. I hope that what emerges will also include the language of human, relational care in support of transformational  change.

There’s a growing body of evidence to show that compassion is good for us all. Whether you’re a person living with a long term condition, an unpaid carer or a staff member, I’m hoping that in 2017 we openly move towards a kinder, more compassionate approach in support of transformation in health and social care.

There was an excellent piece in a recent Sunday newspaper where Professor John Gillies spoke bravely and clearly about the need for compassion and Dr James Doty, the neurosurgeon who founded the Centre for Compassion and Altruism Research at Stanford University, quoted the Dalai Llama:

“If we say the practice of compassion is something holy, nobody will listen. If we say, warm-heartedness really reduces your blood pressure, your anxiety, your stress and improves your health, then people pay attention.”

I’d vote for that kind of prescription.

 

Cath Cooney

First Published for the Health and Social Care Academy at the ALLIANCE 10th January 2017

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