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Consultant Colorectal Surgeon

James Haddow

Southern District Health Board, NZ

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My passion for quality improvement began when I studied with the Open University in 2011 and achieved a Postgraduate Certificate in Clinical Leadership. During my QI project coursework I developed an interest in driving improvement through use of a patient story, investigation of the data, gaining confidence through PDSA, and creating a burning platform through engagement and dialogue. Being a junior doctor, I learnt that leadership doesn't need to come from a position of authority.

This passion drove me to further my skills through a Darzi Fellowship in 2012. After competitive selection onto this excellent programme, I indulged in full-time quality improvement and clinical leadership activities at Trust level in Whittington Health for one year. This exposed me to engaging professionals from across the trust, from clerical to chief executive, community nurses to consultant surgeons, and also in the regional healthcare community, such as public health, councillors, third sector and UCLP. I delivered three main QIPs and many more smaller projects, one of which is detailed below. I had the opportunity to attend inspiring seminars and conferences, such as the Quality Forum, as well as see what other companies such as Unipart and Cisco were doing in terms of organisational development. I also received 4 weeks of experiential learning delivered by Chris Lake (King's Fund at the time). This opened my eyes to the so-called 'soft skills' that make this area so interesting and I've never looked back.

Following my fellowship, my career took me to two years of full-time academic research with the National Bowel Research Centre. Although this research did not involve delivering changes to the front line, I still considered it to be invaluable in terms of my skills as a clinical leader and an agent for change. I used all the personal skills I learnt in my fellowship to facilitate completion of the project on time, and the work I completed has furthered the world knowledge on perianal fistula disease and may eventually lead to new clinical trials.

During this research period I also worked for NIHR Enteric Healthcare Technology Cooperative. This role had me networking with directors from commercial companies, professors from other academic institutions and engineers from SMEs to facilitate the development of exciting new medical devices in the field of gastrointestinal medicine and surgery. Collaboration was the currency and the experience was so worthwhile.

My experience to date has taught me that 'improvement' comes in all forms. It is projects on the front line that delivers better care for patients. It is training professional colleagues to approach problems in better and more effective ways. It is in improving one's own personal skills to interact with colleagues in the most effective way. It is conducting research in a laboratory, knowing that the new knowledge will one day lead to advancement in treatments. It is collaborating with amazing people from far outside the healthcare sector to bring in the best innovation. However improvement really only has one goal - to make things better for our patients.

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