70 years of the NHS – Bring on the next 70 years

This week the UK’s National Health Service celebrated its 70th birthday. For 70 years the NHS has been providing not just health care free at the point of use,  but the reassurance that, when you need it, high quality health care is there for you, whoever you are and whatever your needs. Like so many institutions, it is the idea of the NHS as much as its beds and nurses and doctors and drugs, that is powerful. In the UK the NHS has become the manifestation of what it means for the State to provide, for the State to care and shorthand for the ideal that your value as a citizen is not determined by wealth but by your humanity. With such a weight of expectation and meaning it is no wonder that the NHS has become a lightening rod in British politics and society; and changing it in any way is on par with writing new words to the national anthem, changing the colour of the England Team Football kit and suggesting the Queen might like to try out a new hair do –  all at the same time. Yet the NHS needs change.

Change in the NHS is an archetypal complex problem. With many owners, many root causes, constant evolution of what is possible and what is needed and 70 years of entrenched behaviours sustaining the current patterns-  change in the NHS needs a collective and adaptive approach. Wasafiri was lucky enough to be asked to support one particular change initiative, and below, as our birthday card to the NHS, is a short case study on this work. We’d love to hear any examples or stories you have of positive change going on in the NHS – feel free to use the comments space below…..

The 2020 Leadership Programme – Supporting the NHS Transformation Agenda 

The UK’s National Health Service is both the world’s most efficient and biggest health care provider. Whilst it is a matter of national pride, it is also facing unprecedented challenges. An ageing population, innovations in the possibilities (and costs) of medical care, changing workforce dynamics and ever-growing expectations, are just some of the systemic forces that, in combination, ask “what does it means to create an NHS fit for 21st Century Britain?”

In 2016 the NHS launched the ‘Sustainability and Transformation Partnerships’, through which ‘place-based plans’ for the future of the NHS were developed. In many ways these plans are radical. They bring together local and national public-sector bodies with civil society and community organisations and even businesses to, collectively, create the future of health care in the UK. Working in such a collective and ultimately adaptive way demands changes in all sorts of ways and at many levels; including in the very beliefs, values and behaviours of those leading change.

The NHS 2020 Leadership Programme was created to develop leaders capable of the innovations and change required to create a health and social care system that meets the future needs of society. Designed and delivered by the NHS in partnership with Cocreate, and supported by Wasafiri, the 2020 Programme brings together some of the most enterprising clinicians and managers across the clinical, social care, military and public health systems. Together they build personal and institutional relationships, break down organisational barriers and collaborate on real world ‘change challenges’.

Wasafiri teamed up with Cocreate to bring our Systemcraft framework to the NHS 2020 Fellows on the programme. We developed a bespoke learning session that allowed participants to apply a systems perspective to the specific Change Challenges that they were working on. Specifically, leaders were able to:

  • Bring a systemic view to specific problems
  • Understand patterns, problems, complexity and how they can all be leveraged to make change happen
  • Identify different ‘types’ of action to create change and shift entrenched patterns
  • Explore ‘what next wise action’ they could take as leaders working on specific challenges.

By giving system leaders’ the freedom to think across organisational boundaries, and the tools to create change they are able to work together, build relationships together and foster an atmosphere of collaboration that is generating real, system wide change.

Wasafiri is proud to have played a part in this journey and we look forward to continuing to work with Cocreate and the NHS 2020 Leadership Programme.