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Health Improvement Scotland - person centred care icon

Despite this uniquely challenging time, it has been heart-warming to see over the past few months the many examples of humanity, compassion and kindness displayed by the health and care workforce during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

During this time, maintaining a focus on the principles that underpin person-centred care has often been extremely difficult, and human interaction at a personal level, enabling people to share in decisions about their care or support options, has been limited. Keeping the person at the heart of their care during this time is even more important than ever, as providing the type of holistic, relational care we should all expect, is being challenged by this pandemic. So finding new ways to provide person-centred care despite the immense challenges of this virus, has been essential for health and care staff to continue to feel they are delivering the kind of care they would wish to give, and in enabling people receiving that care to feel more wholly cared for as human beings.

At Healthcare Improvement Scotland, we have been collecting a range of innovations developed by staff supporting person centred care

Recently we have seen those working in our health and care systems truly rise to the challenge of finding new and innovative ways to overcome the barriers to providing compassionate person-centred care that this pandemic has surfaced. At Healthcare Improvement Scotland, we have been collecting a range of innovations developed by staff supporting person-centred care during COVID.

Great progress has been made in a very short time in solving some long-standing technical challenges of access to equipment and connectivity experienced in some care environments. There have also been many examples of where good things have happened faster than normal. For example, where people who work in health and care roles have felt more liberated to do the right thing without waiting for permission, and where teams have learned at a remarkable pace. This freedom to act and the culture that has created the ability to provide solutions, has enabled staff to demonstrate a real passion for putting patients and service users at the heart of their care.

We know that innovation can result in improvement, particularly when it emerges in response to the problems or needs of the service user, although we also know that not all improvements are innovations. There is no doubt that some aspects of our response to this pandemic have made that step change into innovation, although some changes have also posed a risk in increasing inequalities for some. Rather than seeing this as a failure in meeting everyone’s needs with one solution, we should see this as an opportunity for person-centred innovation around the needs of a diverse population.

[…] we should see this as an opportunity for person-centred innovation around the needs of a diverse population

At the heart of good person-centred design is understanding diversity and getting to know people, what their needs are, what matters to them, and what their personal goals and preferences are for their care and support. Would this not then be the right place to start in designing and improving a range of care and services for the future?

We reflected on how we might gain a sense of the scale of innovation in person-centred care across our health and care systems. With the limitations of physical distancing, we decided to test out a range of virtual mechanisms, including scanning social media platforms and making direct enquiry of professional networks. This provides a great deal of information and insights directly from those working in these systems and their organisations.

We gathered, compiled and themed this information into an easily accessible webpage that allowed us to turn this information into knowledge, both in making sense of the information and in providing a place for people to find the innovations and consider if any could solve similar problems they were experiencing in their setting.

We then considered how we might discover more about these innovations. For example, how were they being identified and developed in practice, what were the conditions that were enabling these to be implemented at pace, and what support do the health and social care workforce need to sustain innovation care through this pandemic crisis and into the future?

To help us turn ‘knowledge into action’ our next step is to actively engage with those who are innovating or enabling innovation

To help us turn ‘knowledge into action’ our next step is to actively engage with those who are innovating or enabling innovation. We need to think differently about how we engage and collaborate in pandemic conditions to avoid overburdening those responsible for direct delivery of care. Fortunately, technology has offered us a range of up-and-coming physically distanced communication methods, including video conferencing and virtual workshop solutions that will help us with this challenge.

Improvers often talk about ‘not doing things to people, but doing it with them’, taking time to discover what matters to health and social care workers. And what they need from improvement support in the current context and new reality is vital. In a time where we have experienced the impossible becoming possible with the absence or reduction in bureaucracy and unwritten rules, this must be the time for person-centred innovation to flourish.

How to help or take part
If you have been involved in a person-centred care innovation during COVID-19 and would like to share your ideas, innovations or thoughts on the conditions that enable these innovations, please contact us: hcis.personcentredscot@nhs.net

You can find out more about the range of innovations supporting person-centred care during COVID-19 via the Health Improvement Scotland website.

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