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Attract people to your cause

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Only by engaging individuals can you successfully implement large-scale change

We all know that we need to change the way in which the NHS works if we have any hope of improving the way in which we deliver care to our patients. However, it’s also a fact that 70% of large-scale change projects fail within the first year. Why is this and what can we do to turn this around?

As clinicians, we have a passion for patient care and a strong desire to improve the patients’ experiences. If we channel this passion in the right way, we can inspire others and bring to fruition changes that truly are transformational.

It’s simple, really, when you think about it - it’s just about connecting with people’s hearts and minds. Once you help people to make sense of things and help them to understand the fundamental shared purpose, you can start to build commitment and optimism for the future.

Making these connections is also how we influence people. We find out what a person’s values are, we identify with those, then we flex our approach accordingly.

Top tips for making transformational change

● Use patient feedback to do things differently. Use feedback as evidence and fuel to be transformational in how we think of our services
● Consider your ultimate goal from a personal perspective. Why are you passionate about this change?
● Manage expectations from the outset. Work collaboratively but be realistic about what is achievable
● Follow through with what you say. Don’t start something you can’t finish. Unmet expectations cause cynicism.

This connection with a shared purpose has been demonstrated recently by the daffodil advertising campaign of charity Marie Curie Cancer Care. In one television commercial, the first kiss of a teenager is juxtaposed against a family’s kiss goodbye to a patient who is terminally ill; it suggests that we should make a patient’s last moments as special as their first ones. This connects with us on a personal, emotional level and, in doing so, makes us more much likely to engage with the cause.

So let me ask you a simple question: why did you join the NHS?

I’m guessing that you said something about making a difference and helping people. I can be pretty sure that you didn’t say anything about saving money or helping the NHS to improve its efficiency.

Historically, most improvement projects have tended to be focused on cost and productivity; increasingly, however, our focus needs to move so that it is on other aspects of care - namely quality, patient safety and patient experience.

We can focus on these by not only listening to patients but also by acknowledging that it is possible to save money by doing things differently. We can all still make a difference to the outcomes of our patients - we just need to get people engaged, keep them energised and ensure they are committed to the cause.


Lyndsay Short is deputy director at the East Midlands Leadership Academy and has a background in surgical nursing. She also leads on the Inclusive Leadership for a Purpose strategy, which brings together patient and public involvement and inclusion to improve the quality of education and practice in leadership

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