Healthcare leaders returning health to its rightful home

My first blog of 2016 has to start with this great recent article by the former NHS man and independent Peer Lord Nigel Crisp. Published in the December edition of the British Medical Journal (which also contains a recipe for baking a ‘brain cake’), Nigel lays out his vision for ‘Building a health creating society, with all sectors working towards a healthy and resilient population’.

The article is a passionate cry for a major re-focus on prevention. It also reflects a growing recognition by the current NHS leadership and others of the tremendous positive value that can be created when we recognise everyone has a role in creating healthy humans and communities, from housing associations to our next door neighbours.

To make his point Nigel quotes the inspiring African expression which pretty much sums up my overall philosophy on health care.

“Home is for health, hospitals are for repairs”

Over the past two years my own organisation has established numerous health and wellbeing tests and pilots (yes more pilots), and in the process has partnered with many acute hospitals, hospices, countless doctors, nurses and many many patients.

Our work has provided us with invaluable insight into how the health care system operates, strengthening our ability to support people to live comfortably and securely in their own homes. It has also revealed to us the tragic results when our various public services fail to connect (or to deliver) and how just disconnected some people are from the non-professional community that exists outside their homes.

Our partnerships have also revealed some incredible people working beneath the radar in Healthcare, people who are attempting to achieve the vision that Nigel and others are calling for. You suspect that without them the vision is simply not achievable. They are often quiet and unassuming, rarely using the ‘innovation’ lexicon of policy movers and shakers but are making a significant difference from the ward upwards.

For me they all share 3 common characteristics; 1) they always, almost religiously, put people (patients) first  2) They believe that illness should not mask the gifts, skills and knowledge that all patients have 3) and they all understand that there is a rich world that exists outside the healthcare system that they need, must, find ways to connect with.

Here is a just a small list of some of those unsung heroes that I have encountered in my travels over the past 18 months. I guarantee they will all humbly reject my adoration, but nonetheless I will ruthlessly celebrate them and their work.

I have to start with…

  • Emma Hodges (CEO of St Giles Hospice). It was almost three years ago when we first teamed up with this passionate and innovative Hospice leader to help her to bring care out of the Hospice and into people’s homes. The result was a new partnership ‘My Home Support’ that has won acclaim throughout the international and national palliative care community. It’s also allowed us to support Bromford customers in ways were never thought were imaginable.
  • Tony Bullock (Public Health Commissioner- Staffordshire County Council). Knowing how humble Tony is he will hate me mentioning his efforts, but he has been a great local ally in helping us to support customers who are battling addiction. He is also a huge advocate of Asset Based Community Development and strength based approaches to tackling drugs and addiction, recognising the important role that communities play in the road to recovery.
  • Lizzy Rankin (Rheumatology Consultant- University Hospital Birmingham UHB). Again a quietly unassuming clinician with a fierce intellect and a passion for the health of young people. From a coffee in their canteen in 2013 we devised a plan to bring housing expertise into a busy A & E department. The impactful findings, which revealed large levels of self-harm related admissions, will be presented at a national conference next year.
  • Antony Cobley (Equality and Diversity Lead UHB)- Again of UHB, no honours list would be complete without the thoughtful, funny (understatement) and engaging Anthony Cobley. Having had the pleasure of working with him for a short stint in 2014, he continues to drive forward his plans for making wellbeing a central focus of one of the busiest Acute Trusts in the land.  He’s also helping to establish an orchard for patients around the Queen Elizabeth Hospital site. I recommend a visit.
  • Paul Dodd (Respiratory lead for the West Midlands Respiratory Network) I didn’t get to work with Paul so much last year but he did update me recently on the brilliant work he has been doing with partners in embedding the principles of ABCD into how Hospitals address the socially isolating condition of COPD. The Ripple Project which he has been developing with Coventry & Warwickshire Foundation Trust has recently been funded by the Health Foundation, you can find information about it here.

They are all, in small and big ways, making the NHS a much better place to receive care in, bringing it out of our hospitals and into our homes and communities.

Heaven knows where we would be without these unassuming radicals.

Have a great 2016 everyone

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