Just bloggin’ on the value of values

What does value mean to you? A recent event I attended, in my capacity as a patient leader, got me thinking about this although I confess I haven’t yet come up with an answer!

I’ve now chalked up four events as a patient leader. I took the train down to the ‘steel city’ to attend the Value of Values in Health and Social Care Leadership at Sheffield Hallam University. On arrival at the university I enjoyed a very efficient registration process – staff wearing uniforms, refreshments on arrival and a delegate pack full of information about the day.

My first thought? Can you put a price on the value of good customer care or, in the context of health and social care, good patient care. Although I must add we need to extend to include a good patient experience as care and experience are not necessarily the same thing.

Professor Karen Bryan eased us in to the lecture theatre and pointed out that there was a cohort of future healthcare students in the room to assist with microphones so no swearing!

Professor John Edmonstone gave a really interesting presentation with lots of useful quotes and academic references. His chosen topic was the value of engaging doctors and consultants and how to do it. And this was followed by Dr Umesh Prabhu coming on stage and quoting Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

He reminded us that culture could be defined as what we do when no-one is watching. His mantra was to take mistakes as an opportunity and catalyst to make improvements. This related back to Prof. Edmondson quoting; ‘Blaming Individuals is easier’. (Source: Human error: models and management, Reason 2000).

Sarah O’Grady was representing Amnesty and spoke about Human Rights and the rights of a child. This got me thinking, can we even put a value on basic human rights?

John Greatrex, Unipart Group’s HR Director, spoke about the way his organisation inspires and enables colleagues. Again reinforcing the key values that people might hold and how you can engage with them.

Most of the talks resonated with me as they were business focused. This meant they were looking for solutions instead of getting caught up in excuses and blame for something not being done. Ultimately teams are best employed to find solutions to problems if things go wrong. In the culture of the NHS and social care it should be accepted that behaviours are challenged if they don’t fit the organisations values.

So we need to recruit people who look beyond their job descriptions to represent patients in a fair and constructive way as if we were a relative but with a clearer understanding of the facts and a level of objectivity. We can hope to provide person centred care as the norm but sometimes time pressure causes us to lose that notion.

In our bid to deter complacency and champion good communication, we must be mindful in our actions. This conference was thought provoking to build our integrated social care systems. I know it’s easy to sit in a conference and see things idealistically rather than when you are in the thick of it. But as we spend a lot of time in the workplace so taking time to step back and think of working holistically may help us to work smarter.

I attended a workshop that reinforced my reasons for being a patient leader and our role in helping support healthcare commissioners in their decision making. The Chilypep project was a great example of how to engage people in decision making. See their website for examples of best practice; www.ChilyPep.org.uk

The next workshop I attended was ‘Embedding organisational values hints and tips on how to embed organisational values’. The speaker, Debbie Taylor, talked us through effective appraisals based on a common value system. Feedback is sought daily, weekly and monthly to ensure work is on track. Colleagues formulate their delivery schedules in line with what is required by the executive committee. This is an interesting concept of perpetually seeking feedback from others.

Sally Gretton was the final person to take to the podium to speak about the thrust to make health and social care more integrated. I think in Leeds the expectation may be that it’s easier as we have neighbourhood network charities but they tend to operate on a weekday basis. But are our values integrated? Food for thought.

What do you think?

Gwen Oates

Memory Support Worker for the Alzheimer’s Society (and Patient Leader)