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LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

How to get a new idea to work

Got a great idea? You need to talk to the right people – not just your manager

As GP surgeries and hospitals come under pressure to produce better outcomes with fewer resources, it has become clear that new ideas are what’s going to get us there. 

That’s a good thing for nurses. We tend to have no shortage of suggestions on how we could do things differently, improving things for patients as well as the bottom line. 

I have noticed, though, that many ideas that are talked about are never sustained, particularly in GP surgeries. It’s worth thinking about why that is.

Thinking about my own situation, working as a practice nurse in a busy GP surgery – Bartley Green Medical Practice in south Birmingham – I would always rush in enthusiastically to my practice manager with a new thought. I would convince the team to try it for a while, we’d give it a go and, after a couple of weeks, the whole thing would have fallen apart. I was always left wondering why.

After working with the NHS Institute for Innovation on the Productive Practice programme, I’ve learnt a great deal about implementing new initiatives.

The most important and valuable lesson I have learnt through working on this programme is that I was involving the wrong people.

It’s vital to get buy-in and understanding from all the team – that is the only way to make a project sustainable. A sense of ownership over change is vital. 

For example, a couple of months ago, I had an idea that I thought would save money and increase appointments. 

Before I approached the manager, I asked members of the nursing team for their thoughts during our nurses’ meeting. The comments that I received helped me reach the conclusion that my concept needed a bit more thought to make it work. 

Another valuable lesson for me was understanding what a huge role the non-clinical staff play in general practice. 

Road test your idea

  • Don’t implement it without thinking about how sustainable it is – have you got the staff, money, resources, time and enthusiasm to keep it going?
  • Canvas opinion from many sources – reception staff, healthcare assistants, the practice manager, GPs and fellow nurses. Don’t be afraid of listening to negative feedback
  • Have a long-term plan for the idea
  • Don’t get caught up in enthusiasm. If you have a critical friend, get them to look over your proposal and work out if it is sound

They see much more of the patient journey than we do – including people coming in for repeat prescriptions or to make bookings. Those are the patients we clinicians don’t see every time they come in.

Sometimes, the people with the smallest voices often have the best ideas.

Now, I make sure I ask reception and administration staff as well as clinical staff for their views. 

My advice is to listen to everyone, get everyone to give you feedback and learn when not to take your ideas forward. Not every idea is a good idea.

 Liz Wilson is a practice nurse at Bartley Green Medical Practice in south Birmingham. She has worked for over 20 years in the NHS, in both acute and primary care. She is currently working for the NHS Institute on the Productive General Practice Programme – visit www.institute.nhs.uk/pgp for information

Readers' comments (1)

  • Anonymous

    'The most important and valuable lesson I have learnt through working on this programme is that I was involving the wrong people'

    and

    'Sometimes, the people with the smallest voices often have the best ideas.

    Now, I make sure I ask reception and administration staff as well as clinical staff for their views.

    My advice is to listen to everyone, get everyone to give you feedback and learn when not to take your ideas forward. Not every idea is a good idea.'

    Quite. Good ideas can come from anywhere, you need to adopt a multi-perspective way of thinking when you mentally test the idea, and then you need to push the idea at the right level, and engage the right people in a discussion of it.

    It definitely isn't a case, of just discussing something with your line manager, if you want to effect a change.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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