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Tell us a little bit about yourself and your improvement journey.

My name is Jaffer and I am a Leadership Fellow with Health Education England and Northamptonshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. Over the past two years, I have undertaken a Leadership and Innovation Fellowship which has allowed me to lead on various different programmes in which improvement has always been a focus.

I previously led the Midlands Mouth Care Matters programme which was a quality and cost-improvement programme aimed at improving the oral health of inpatients. This was an exciting programme that involved implementing change and improvement across multiple hospital Trusts. It was based on upskilling ward staff in developing the skills to carry out effective mouth care on patients, as well as to support the procurement of effective equipment and the development of appropriate policies and recording tools. Supporting mouth care not only improves patient comfort and dignity, but it also has been shown to reduce the incidences of Hospital Acquired Pneumonia and the length of stay. Whilst COVID-19 had an impact, there was some really valuable learning gained, as well as demonstrable outcomes within the first wave of Trusts we worked with.

Prior to this, I formed the first regional Clinical Network for prison dentistry. The main objective was to improve service delivery across the prison estate through collaboration between stakeholders such as providers, commissioners, and dental public health teams. Working within secure settings can often be professionally isolating, especially for dental teams who often operate a single-chair service. There are lots of unique environmental challenges when working within prisons, such as continuity of care and high rates of non-attendance. Having everyone involved in the delivery of care, irrespective of organisational boundaries, sit around the table and discuss common challenges and potential solutions can be liberating.

A key influencer in the programme may be a really passionate ward team member who commands the respect of their peers whilst holding no ‘formal’ leadership position.

Currently, I’m involved in leading the development of a diabetes transformation programme with the objective of creating a more patient-centred approach towards the NICE Care Processes. It’s a really interesting time with Population Health Management becoming more of a focus, and I look forward to being able to share more about our journey. In addition, I also support the Office of the Chief Dental Officer England on various workstreams.

What have you learnt about improvement along the way?

Whilst I’ve been involved in various different programmes, I think there are definitely some common themes which can help to formulate the ‘secret sauce’ for achieving successful outcomes during improvement journeys:

  1. Executive level support for projects/programmes: Having decision makers lend their support and embrace the vision of a programme can be a really powerful way to jump-start any project. It gives permission to convene and sends a signal to others that this is seen as something worthy of investment amidst so many competing priorities.
  2. Finding the ‘networkers’: There are always well-connected individuals who can open doors and help remove any roadblocks. For example, during the Mouth Care Matters programme, Trust Infection Prevention and Control Teams were vital in making the links with Communications, Procurement and Learning and Development teams as they work regularly with all three, as well as having a presence on each and every ward.
  3. Finding the on-the-ground ‘influencers’: These are the individuals who have their ear close to the ground and interact regularly with key stakeholders of the change programme. They are key to the feedback loop and will pass ‘intelligence’ back up, helping to prevent blind spots during the journey. Influencers tend to already have well-established relationships and are seen as trusted. It’s important to note that traditional hierarchy often plays no role here: a key influencer in the programme may be a really passionate ward team member who commands the respect of their peers whilst holding no ‘formal’ leadership position.
  4. Power of storytelling and data: Any vision for improvement needs to appeal to hearts and minds, and storytelling and data are essential tools to unlock both. The data that needs to be collected should be determined from the outset, and be clear and logical to ensure the project makes sense to undertake and invest in. However, often this may not be enough to energise individuals, and so storytelling becomes important in fuelling momentum. For example, when presenting to Medical Directors on Mouth Care Matters, I remember it was the powerful patient and carer testimonies and images that made the room fall silent – humanising the data can be incredibly powerful.
  5. Always remember the patient: Whilst this is obvious and goes without saying, I have found that it can often be very easy to have tunnel-vision and focus on operational models and efficiencies, whilst forgetting the very reason and purpose of why you are doing what you are doing.

I had a look to find out more about what Q was all about, and I knew I had to be a part of the community straight away!

What first attracted you to Q?

I was first attracted to Q once I noticed that a few individuals I followed on Twitter were all members – they often posted interesting links and seemed to share similar ideas and thoughts. I had a look to find out more about what Q was all about, and I knew I had to be a part of the community straight away!

What are you hoping to get out of Q?

I relish the opportunity to network with like-minded passionate individuals united with the aim to improve health and care. I’m really looking forward to taking part in some of the Randomised Coffee Trials. I believe the Q community will encourage me to look at things from a different perspective and provide me with motivation along my own journey. I am committed to being an active listener and to be curious and ask questions. Through curiosity and collaboration, I believe there is significant potential for Q to be a vehicle for change and improvement.

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