It has now been a year since we prepared our first set of civil servants to go out on the frontline. As I look back over that year, not only do I have a lot of memories, but most of all I have a sense of amazement that it is already so much a part of the Department’s DNA.
Connecting has always been, for me, about people. Meeting people who use the services and being so privileged to be a part of their lives for a moment, often at times of great difficulty. Spending time with staff from all across the health and care sector, who juggle so many priorities and are so expert at what they do.
DH is now awash with stories of what our staff have been seeing whilst out connecting, what they learnt and, most importantly, stories about people. There is a much deeper understanding amongst staff that policy affects people directly and their loved ones around them.
So, my highlights…apart from travelling to so many organisations!
Really raising awareness of mental health issues in DH; welcoming our connecting partners into DH to hear about what we do, how we write policy, work with ministers; hosting the Stroke Association in our office and giving staff the chance to meet with stroke survivors; going round Kings college A and E with Malcolm the Consultant from the TV's '24 hours in A&E'. Having a journalist join us at one of our debriefing sessions after she had shadowed one of our connectors. Reading her column and blog - a long way from the "pass the bedpan sir humphrey" type coverage we'd had earlier. Hearing from our first connector who witnessed a birth, and also talking to a connector who was very moved and wanted to talk more about what they saw.
It has been great to hear Jeremy Hunt say that this is the thing in DH he is most proud of, and to meet Robert Francis and hear that we was so supportive of the programme. It was also great to link up with Melbourne, Australia, and talk about how they are setting up their own ‘Connect’ programme.
It has been fantastic to work with so many partners - their enthusiasm and the time they have given to connecting has been amazing and very much appreciated.
By far the, best thing for me, is we are beginning to get some ‘so what's’...people aren't making policy by anecdote but using the time to understand more about the system and to build a bigger stakeholder base, and, most importantly, to understand more about the experiences/ feelings people have both when caring and when they themselves need support and care.
So, 278 staff spent over 2000 days on the front line*. Next year we want to do 5000 days and get more people going out. We also want focus more on evaluation and show the difference it is making in the way we are "leading the nation’s health and care".
Here's to year two!
*as of 20th June 2014