When getting Connecting off the ground, we wanted to make sure that people were prepared, supported and challenged with an expectation that they would be "debriefed" and then share experiences on their return. In this sense it would be a programme, rather than a series of informal episodes. We also wanted to ensure we capture the learning that people return with, and embed it within our better policy making agenda.
We have now done 1,200 days of connecting, with all our Senior Civil Servants participating. I think all of us believe it is here to stay in DH and that it is Civil Service Reform in action.
The connections that we have made with our partners have been really important. Far from tolerating us, they appear to have enjoyed sharing their work with us, keen to tell us what they think about what works and what doesn’t, and have also appreciated a fresh pair of eyes. As one partner said, it has “demystified” the role of DH.
For me, one of the highlights of Connecting was inviting a group of partners in to the Department to learn more about the role of DH and the workings of government. Their enthusiasm and the conversations we had were, for me, a great end to 2013.
I am hoping that the same atmosphere and partnership will be present at our “Connecting Together Conference”, happening on February 26th. We hope that it will provide an opportunity to reflect on what we have all got from the Connecting programme and work together to shape it going forward.
People often ask what difference this is making...well.... I think our Senior Civil Servants have a broader understanding of how the system works, and also of the patient, service user and staff experience. It has raised their awareness of issues outside of their own policy domain. People also say to me that it has reminded them "why I come to work in the morning"; it has renewed our sense of purpose.
As stewards of the system, we need to know and understand and feel connected to that system in all its complexities.
Finally, I spoke with colleagues in Australia last week. They approached the Department having heard about the programme. They too have been following the Francis recommendations and were also connecting their Department of Health staff to some of their front line services.
We shared ideas and experiences - yet another Connection and something that brings us all together, wanting to improve our nation’s health.