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13.12.17

Developing a wellness workforce

The entire health and care sector needs to come together to prepare for a shift towards health creation, writes Merron Simpson, chief executive of the New NHS Alliance.

The health workforce is under extreme pressure, the causes of which are several. Some immediate political decisions are required to stabilise the situation as Britain plans to leave the EU, and some other solutions may well lie in the political domain. But whatever decisions are or aren’t made by politicians, these pressures will continue to be for the foreseeable future. So, what else might be done to alleviate the situation?

One thing we can do is to start preparing the workforce now for a longer-term shift in what the health service is for – health. We will, of course, always need sufficient highly-trained medical staff to deliver high standards of healthcare and patient safety. But if we are aiming for a sustainable health system, we need to shine a spotlight on ‘wellness’ and work on keeping people well.

New NHS Alliance is calling for a new paradigm for public health to make this shift to wellness happen, and for the whole health workforce (not just public health) to be suitably equipped. Think of it as ‘the public’s health,’ if you like.

‘Health creation’ (which is the route to wellness) comes about when professionals and people work together as equal partners to bring lasting improvements in health and lives. It is this equal partnership that makes health creation possible. Communities play roles, professionals play roles, and what gets done revolves around what matters to the communities.

Working in health-creating ways requires a profound respect for the whole person (or patient) in the context of their community networks – or lack thereof – and how their past experiences have led to their present circumstances. It requires new solutions that emerge from a deep understanding of what makes us well – the ‘three Cs’ of health creation and the five features of health-creating practices outlined in New NHS Alliance Manifesto for Health Creation.

A ‘wellness workforce’ also requires rather different skills. More listening to what matters to people and communities. More encouragement of truth-telling about the deep causes including painful truths, less treating the symptom. A bigger focus on what people can do for themselves and with others, less on what’s wrong with them. More support to connect people with common interests and experiences, fewer referrals to medical experts. And a willingness to work with people to address the problems they identify in their communities.

A health-creating service also needs to re-envisage its role and relationships within a wider health system – because the wellness workforce goes well beyond the NHS. Being prepared to work alongside communities and other professional sectors as equal partners and working out how these roles fit together becomes part of the core skillset. 

Embedding these skills in our workforce may not be the obvious quick fix, but neither does it have to take forever. It is something we need to do if we are to be equipped to make lasting improvements in population health and people’s lives. As an organisation that brings health and other sectors together with communities, the New NHS Alliance has been leading the way, and we have ambitions to support workforce learning during 2018.

You can learn more about health creation – how it can improve not just people’s health, but their lives and economic productivity too – at the New NHS Alliance Action Summit, ‘Health Creation: Wealth Creation – the power of people and communities’ taking place on 6 December. We will be joined by health secretary Jeremy Hunt and Public Health England CEO Duncan Selbie, plus many superb speakers who have lived experience of health creation.

Top Image: Sturti

FOR MORE INFORMATION
For more details of the summit and to purchase your tickets, visit:
W: www.tinyurl.com/New-NHS-Alliance-Summit

Comments

Julia Wolfendale On The Up Consulting Ltd   28/12/2017 at 09:00

For this approach of 'equal partnerships' to flourish it requires the development not just of skills, but behaviours. Coaching the workforce to take a strength based approach means knowing how to, recognise and build on what is good already. It requires a deeper understanding of what matters to people's own health and wellbeing and what behaviours promote or detract from health creation.

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