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Don’t just consult on an NHS 10-year plan – co-create it

Dean Royles, strategic workforce advisor at Skills for Health and co-author of ‘An Introduction to Human Resource Management’ published by Oxford University Press, makes the case for radical collaboration to plan for the future of the NHS.

The NHS has a new secretary of state and a commitment to a new 10-year plan. The think tanks and NHS membership bodies have already given their views on what the priorities should be and how the new money should be spent: mental health, reducing health inequalities, integrated care, social care, improving public health, and primary care.

It’s not a bad list, but how do we know it’s the right one? None of us have the monopoly on good ideas. National organisations often recognise the importance and value of engaging staff and involving patients and there has never been a better opportunity to truly engage staff and the public. Now: before a draft plan for consultation is even published.

For those of you old enough to remember, you will recall that for the last 10-year plan, in 2002, Alan Milburn, the then Health Secretary, used postcards to get the views of staff and the public. It was seen as quite radical at the time, albeit with a very short timescale. Workforce and access to services were central themes. The problems may be similar in 2018, but the technology and the world has moved on. We can do much better than postcards.

In this digital era the secretary of state has an opportunity, perhaps even an obligation, to engage directly with NHS and social care staff. Not just to consult, but to collaborate and seek to co-create a national framework and a new national plan. He can find out what NHS organisations and staff believe they need to stop, to start and to do differently, he can get real time intelligence from organisations, without filtering through intermediaries, on how they lead, how they manage and how to create workplaces that support and inspire staff. He could be brave and use this as an opportunity to re-engage with NHS trade unions to develop a truly collaborative approach to seeking views.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of ideas could surface and then be analysed and compartmentalised to create national, regional and local priorities. These could then be developed, perhaps to validate and re-prioritise the NHS Constitution. It is an incredible opportunity.

The technology to do this is available now. It is far more effective than supporting organisations with an engagement toolkit or communication guides. It’s not expensive and the prize and the opportunity to re-engage employees and trade unions seems too big to miss.

It has often been said, as we learn from the past that national NHS plans are big on content but poor on execution. True, but I think this is only half the story.

NHS plans are big on ideas but lack the ownership and the experience of staff, who, if we can really involve in developing this plan, will be a new plan’s greatest advocates.

Top image: Neustockimages


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