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Connecting grows up

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Over the summer, I have been getting to grips with a new role within DH. As I begin to work within the patient safety agenda, I have been reflecting how Connecting is so useful in giving you valuable insights into a new policy area. How your connecting contacts are happy to share both good and bad and how those connections open up so many new doors too.

The Connecting programme has now been running for over 2 years and we have spent over 7,200 days connecting with patients, people who use services and staff in over 300 frontline organisations.

Over 700 of our senior civil servants and policy makers have spent time connecting on hospital wards, at local councils, in community environments, mental health trusts and many more health and care settings to get to the heart of patient and service user experience.

Over the last 2 years many of our staff have said their connecting experiences have enabled them to gain a greater understanding of the experience of patients and service users as well as what it’s like for those on the frontline of health and care. Staff have also commented on how connecting helps them see how the health and care system as a whole is operating.

Our connecting partners, too, say the programme is valuable and an opportunity for civil servants to learn more about day to day realities of patients, people who use services, health and care staff as well as seeing issues and policy implementation in practice. We remain indebted to our partners for their support.

We’re currently carrying out our annual surveys with those who have been out connecting and our partners to see if this is still the case. Early indications show it is, but I can’t wait to see the rest of the results to help shape how we move forward…..

That’s not to say we’ve been standing still waiting. I’m delighted to see how connecting is becoming more and more embedded across the department –many staff are now setting up their own connecting opportunities, often based on the enduring contacts they have already made on the frontline. This enables civil servants to really explore a particular policy area or issue and bring back the learning. Linked to that, we’ve been working with the policy improvement team and Cabinet Office to understand how connecting can feed into the policy making process as an additional tool to be used by officials when developing and / or assessing the impact of health policy.

Connecting has also had a number of sidelines. Some of our staff have offered their specialist skills to connecting partners by providing, for example, short term analytical and financial project support.

We’ve also brought connecting into the department, having hosted a number of highly evaluated ‘Connecting comes to you’ events broadcast to large groups of staff in DH buildings across the country. These are opportunities for our connecting partners to come and teach us a thing or two - about their organisations, the services they provide and the challenges and complexities they and their patients and service users sometimes face.

It’s great to see how the Connecting programme has matured over such a short space of time, but without ever losing its core mission to get closer to patients and service users. Connectors are still returning to DH privileged at having spent time at the frontline of the health and care system. For me, the mission has always been for policy makers to think about people, not about abstract policy or organisations but individuals who both use the services and those who care for them. Reading some of the feedback on our surveys….that is happening…more to do.

Here’s to year three!

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