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On being asked to write a blog about our recent Improvers Network event, I have reflected and realised it has been an amazing journey for me as well as the network! I am relatively new to the AHSN and taking on the Programme of Leadership, Culture and Capability was an exciting but slightly daunting new challenge (luckily with the guidance of Tony Kelly who makes everything possible!)

The portfolio of work included results of a survey that had recently been completed, supported by Q, to determine improvement capability across the region. The results backed up my understanding that more was needed in our region to support improvers. The results also showed respondents certainly had an appetite to be part of something. But what? How could I really create something of use?

In my experience if you want to get people interested in something new, let them co-design it, so I carried out a second survey asking what would be useful.

The resulting feedback helped me create our Improvers Network (IN). There were now over 250 members already signed up, and I had an understanding of what improvement skills they already had. It was encouraging that members were from across the whole health economy and with varying levels of Quality Improvement (QI) experience.
It was important to me that this was an inclusive and collaborative community – open for anyone interested in QI. From my recent personal experience of being an improvement lead in an acute trust, I know this type of job comes with lots of challenges and frustrations. I know it can be a lonely role, I could therefore see the value in bringing like-minded staff (with some patients and carers as well) together – allowing them time and space to think and, most importantly, share ideas and solutions. Therefore, I decided to organise our inaugural Improvers Network event.

Preparation for the event

I was supported by Q to run this event. I am also lucky to work with some fantastic colleagues within the AHSN, without them this event would not have happened. Previous roles gave me a good understanding of what I would have wanted from an event, and I also used experiences of recent meetings I had attended (including the Q founding cohort meetings) to help shape the day (taking the best bits from all my experiences and fusing them into one day that appealed to me). Having read about the Sign up to Safety (SUTS) Kitchen Campaign, I was thrilled when Suzette Woodward agreed to bring her kitchen to the event and be our keynote speaker.

I wanted a really interactive day, with delegates moving and interacting in small groups. An agenda with plenty of airspace – time to talk, reflect and share. It was important to include what our members had indicated they were most interested in learning about –so human factors was the main morning presentation, delivered by a regional expert Dr Rob Galloway. This captured the essence of the day through illustrating the simple errors in our day to day systems masterly fused with humour (although my heart was in my mouth when he nearly feel off the stage not once but twice!)

We had eight breakout sessions and delegates could chose four. These were varied so hopefully all delegates could pick and choose what interested and would be useful for them. This covered the Sign up to Safety campaign kitchen, work on local communities of practice, safety culture, stakeholder engagement and sustaining projects, quality improvement science, human factors and a focus on patients and carers as partners in improvement.

We also had some key stands for our delegates to browse from local and national partners. The delegate packs included stickers with names and email details so they could easily network and exchange details (rather than wishing you had captured the details of that person who may be able to help you with a sticky point in your project when you return to your desk the next day!) On the evaluation forms we asked how many new contacts had been made and were thrilled to see many responding 10+ or just writing lots!

So how was Q involved?

As well as supporting the event, Stacey Lally, Q Programme Manager, did a presentation about Q – to inspire our delegates to apply to Q (we are growing Q from May 2017). We took the names of 45 delegates interested in applying to Q (we used posters with “I’m interested in joining Q” – add your sticker here to make it really easy for delegates to express an interest).

Through my Q Sparks conversations (I’m also a Q founding member) I had been introduced with another Q member, Lesley Goodburn, who agreed to lead the Patients and Carers as Partners breakout session. These conversations have linked me to some great Q members across the country – I think they are a fabulous way of randomly having a QI conversation and I really get value from them all.
From our 12 founding members of Q, members were involved in both the CoP breakouts (these were run as goldfish bowls as an open conversation of experience to date), the Safety Culture conversation, Mr Potato Head (teaching PDSA in very fun way) and Stakeholder Engagement. Our clinical lead who chaired the whole day is also a Q member. It was therefore a great way to showcase the talents of most of our founding Q members! (all our Q members wore their badges so could be identified)

The whole event felt like Q in action – connecting/sharing locally, linking our IN and Q together in a really positive way.

What’s next?

I will be carrying on with established initiatives, and developing some new ones:

Local Chapters – I’m keen to provide IN and Q members with a ‘Meeting in a Box’ kit that they can use to have local IN meetings (these will hopefully have a Q member at the heart of the meeting – our ambition is to have a Q member in every organisation we work with across KSS). This will keep the momentum and enthusiasm for the improvement conversations going. Again, Q is supporting me with this initiative which is fantastic.

Q recruitment – the IN is a network of individuals with just the right skills to be in Q. We are therefore hoping many of our members apply in May. As Q membership in our region grows, I’m really excited to see what value and opportunities it brings. We will also use our Improvers Network as an offering for those interested in joining Q who do not quite have the right level of expertise to be successful for Q – to support and develop them and keep them motivated in improvement and patient safety.

I joined the NHS many years ago because I wanted make a difference. It’s good to connect with others who feel the same and can help me to do this. So if you read this, feel the same and want to join IN – you would be very welcome!


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