Why it is important to me to speak up?
Primary Care is the vital frontline for communities and its important that the teams that provide the services are in dialogue with users of those services. For those colleagues who work in it, it is vital that they also have the freedom to speak up.
I have had the privilege of working at the National Association of Primary Care for over 20 years. I say a privilege because as a small not-for-profit membership organisation we have in that time had a major impact on policy and how care is organised for our frontline colleagues and communities. One of my key roles as Chief Operating Officer as part of the senior leadership team is acting as the ‘glue’ within the organisation and having a helicopter view of our extensive programmes across primary and social care. It has not always been easy to get my voice heard when I believe that perhaps we could be doing something more effectively or in a more joined up way. That is why I see it as vital to speak up. If I can see a colleague struggling or something not as it should be it is important to listen, offer support and always, I believe, propose a solution. Of course, there may be times that I am not right, but it is important to speak up and then learn.
NAPC as an organisation prides itself with working with colleagues and organisations that share the same values though the report by General Sir Gordon Messenger this week with the Health Secretary, Sajid Javid promising an ‘NHS leadership shake-up due to ‘discrimination, bulling and blame culture’ is a stark reminder that is not the case in all organisations. Through the Association’s work we have talked about ‘bringing the joy back to work’, wellbeing and a culture of open and honest discussion is to the benefit of all. We must all be able to demonstrate ‘walking the walk’ and not just giving it lip service.
Influencing, I would say is my top tip. If I can’t get my message across, I am happy to talk it through with colleagues who can. The important point for me personally is getting the right outcome, sounds obvious I am sure but can be very effective if the person you are trying to get through to doesn’t quite get you as a person or an orator. Another tip is keep going, when you feel you are not being heard don’t give up. Listening to others is also vital, they may have insights and suggestions that could be of the benefit of the organisation. Another tip is to own what you believe and speak about it and provide others with a safe environment to do the same. Take a temperature check of how your teams/members are feeling with open surveys and share the findings with them and work together on how things can be improved.
What leaders in other parts of the healthcare system can learn
Listen to everyone in your organisation, walk the corridors, be visible, have a time when you have an open-door policy and lead by example. I am a firm believer that I would not ask anyone to undertake a task that I wouldn’t do myself. I know that is not possible for some colleagues but again the key is sometimes it is of great value to be ‘down in the weeds’ and ‘in that helicopter’.
Hopes & aspirations for the future
My hope and aspiration for the future is that all parts of the health and care system have a voice and can speak openly. This will foster an environment where healthy challenge and debate can take place and where care can be provided by a happy, engaged workforce that will improve the outcomes for our communities and the future of the NHS.