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Connect 4? Make that 7

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Acute, Community care, Mental health, Primary care, Secondary care, Social care
Jane Rintoul 2014
Jane Rintoul, Head of Connecting and Engagement, Department of Health

A few months ago, two of our Connecting partners came along to one of our DG updates and spoke about their experiences of being part of the Connecting programme. One of the issues raised was that Connecting is usually arranged with one specific organisation. Taking this on board, Una set me the challenge of arranging a Connecting experience that focused more on a potential patient/client group or pathway across a geographical area. Luckily, a colleague from North Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (NEP) offered to help with this challenge and bring organisations together in the Mid Essex area.

Organisations have already come together in Essex on something called the ‘100 days challenge’ – this is when big problems are tackled and broken down into specific achievable objectives. The approach allows local organisations to work together to redesign the micro structure of their local system. It combines the longer term strategic plans with literally one hundred days to make change happen. The work in Mid Essex, across agencies, focuses on preventing hospital admissions in the elderly frail group.

NEP organised for this group to come together so we could discuss how we might design and offer a system wide connecting experience for DH staff. Not all partners could commit to the programme, but we had a healthy and enthusiastic number including; NEP, Provide, Age UK Essex, Mid Essex Hospital trust, Whitley House Surgery, Farleigh Hospice, and Essex Cares, a Local Authority Trading Company.

The programme took a fair bit of pulling together but thanks to the colleagues in all the organisations we got there in the end. Three connectors (Gareth Arthur, Paul Richardson and Kendall Gilmore – my guinea pigs!) set out at the beginning of this week to connect with the seven agencies, focusing mainly on the needs of the elderly frail and people living with dementia. The programme included visits to the memory assessment clinic and inpatient services in the mental health services, a hospice, time with a GP, time spent out with the community nursing services and the reablement service, Age UK and finally the acute hospital where they looked at both preventing admissions and supporting discharges. At the end of the four days, we all gathered together to discuss the merits of this type of Connecting experience.

Everyone agreed they found it useful, and more in-depth than Connecting with just a single organisation. It gave them a clearer insight into how people enter and exit the system, a key observation and learning being that there was no clear pathway or journey; everyone’s needs and social situation is different, and entry points dependent on a wide range of factors.

Some key learnings they came away with included:

  • Systems and processes often get in the way of information sharing, and both staff and patients, service users and carers are fed up repeating themselves.
  • Staff feel they could be more efficient, effective and give better care if they could retrieve patient information quicker.
  • All the agencies wanted to avoid silo mentalities or blaming others for lack of service, and all wanted to take a more holistic view of the patient and family.
  • Some patients and carers appeared to receive services from many, some from few.

All our connectors were able to discuss some of their policy specifics, felt they had a deeper understanding of both the individual services and also, importantly, how the system works as a whole and where it sometimes struggles. They also felt they had a broader insight into the needs of this particular group of patients and will be returning to explore some of the policy issues further. We will also be back – and elsewhere – exploring more system wide connecting opportunities.

Thank you to all who made it happen.

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