Teamwork – is sorting the NHS really that simple?

I’ve recently spent two days in hospital having a minor surgical procedure.  From the GP who referred me to the nurse who discharged me, I reckon I came into contact with about 20 medical professionals. I observed dozens more going about their respective work. I should say at the top of this blog that almost every one of them was polite and friendly and treated me with dignity and compassion. They also all seemed to be confident, well trained and professional.

But, there was always going to be a ‘but’, one thing struck me as I sat, stood or lay waiting for things to happen.  There was a distinct and discernible disconnect between the different groups of professionals. If I take the GPs, Nursing staff and the Surgical team as the primary groups I came in to contact with, they all seemed to have their own agendas, processes and, above all, egos. And they didn’t always appear to agree with each other. In fact, they seemed to disagree quite often. My inclination from this recent personal experience is that these disagreements are often based on ego rather than clinical practice. It reminded me a bit of when a plumber inspects another plumber’s previous work and tuts and sighs and tells you they would never have done it like that.

Back to the NHS. The issue for me is that this disconnect can result in conflicting information and advice and often confusion for the patient.  And it must lead to inefficiency.

Respective governments have focussed on managing the symptoms rather than getting to the root cause of the problem.  Every change in the NHS I can remember and certainly the current reforms seem to focus on who manages the commissioning and costs. I think the emphasis should be on who manages the egos. For me, this is about fundamental and systemic cultural change.  It seems to me the entire system is set up so it works for the staff (especially the Consultants) and not necessarily for the patient.

Going back to my title, of course it isn’t going to be simple and I do genuinely appreciate the challenge of changing such a large, complex and expensive organisation. But focussing on changing the dynamics of how the people work together has to be an achievable and worthwhile starting point and one where HR can have a massive and lasting part to play.

At Chiumento we have seen many examples of how different groups – senior, specialist, support – can be ‘brought closer together’ in a more cohesive and efficient environment which, ultimately, delivers better performance.

I will conclude by saying that my personal experience was OK. But the snapshot I got over those two days suggested it could have been so much better.

Mike Burgneay
Client Development Director