A birthday message and reflection from Roy
Where were you when Malaysian Fight 370 disappeared, there was an oil price crash and ‘Happy’ had kept Pharrell Williams at the top of the music charts for 20 weeks? Remember him? Nope!
However, I do remember it was 2014 and I was standing on a stage, somewhere, talking about the NHS.
In the news was the story of a disaster. A Trust had got itself into a mess. Some patients had died. They had missed chemo-therapy targets. It turned out some managers at the hospital knew about it and had falsified the records. They also knew they were about to be inspected by the CQC.
They were more worried about the outcome of the inspection than they were about the outcomes for patients.
I had long been an opponent of inspection as a way to improve quality. As a technique it has been all but abandoned by industry, in favour of continuous quality improvement.
The disaster at the hospital, which ended with a really good chief executive leaving and the Board being replaced, was a graphic demonstration of the folly of frightening people instead of encouraging them.
At the conference, I said; ‘Wouldn’t it be a good idea, if a Trust had a problem, there was somewhere they could call and ask for help. See if anyone else had the same problem and how they had overcome it.’
I remember saying; ‘We could call it the Academy of Fabulous Stuff’.
It all just popped into my head… out of exasperation.
As I left the conference someone said to me; ‘You should do it. Start the Academy’.
On the way home, I thought, why not.
The concept is based on the management theory of positive deviance. In any set of circumstances, organisations or departments, faced with the similar problems and with the same resources, there will be people and teams who will come up with solutions, work-arounds and innovations.
A year later the Academy of Fabulous Stuff was born… on Valentine’s Day 2015. A free repository of the good stuff the NHS and its people do, to overcome, innovate and inspire.
It was an instant hit. We followed up the launch with roadshows, visits to hospitals, an annual awards event at the O2 and we gave away enough T-shirts to clothe a small country and kept the badge maker in business! Canada and Australia joined in the concept of sharing things that work.
There was a tidal wave of people who enjoyed our simple view; if you share the best, the rest will follow and do it better.
It worked. Trusts made The Academy the centre of their quality improvement programmes and to reward and recognise them we awarded an Academy Blue Plaque…
… and joy of joys, one Trust had their commitment to the Academy, as part of their quality improvement programme, sighted by none other than the CQC!
Covid put paid to our trips and visits. Our efforts were switched to free, online events and they are still inspiring audiences today.
The commitment to quality improvement, by sharing what works, understanding the little things are the big things and starting with the patient and working backwards, are as relevant today as they were all those years ago.
The Academy has grown, changed, matured and is now closer to a social movement than it is, just an organisation.
There have been one and a half million visits to the website and over seven million pages of fabulous ideas have been viewed and ideas 'pinched with pride!’
Academy Ambassadors, working right across the NHS keep us in-touch with the real and challenging world of healthcare, from the front line.
The Academy now belongs to the people who own it, the share holders. Not in the sense of stocks and shares but in the sense of the stock-in-trade of the Academy, the shares of ideas that people give, freely. Solutions to problems. Things that have worked for them and might work for someone else.
The next step in our journey to excellence is to give more people the opportunity to be part of our mission; show people what good looks like and they’ll get on and do it better.
The Academy has an exciting future. Crowd sourcing ideas and resources is one of just some of the avenues we will be opening up, so that more people and organisations can be part of our pursuit of excellence.
Getting back on the road and re-establish our events programme and visits.
The NHS has gone through a difficult time and still faces huge challenges but all of us at the Academy remain convinced the NHS needs no encouragement to innovate, no motivation to share the best of what it does.
It just needs the time and space for good people to do great things and share them.
My message today is the same as the day we started; every improvement however small, can make a difference. Everyone, wherever they are in the system must be recognised and encouraged for their ideas and improvements and all suppliers and partners to the NHS, where ever they are, can join in and contribute to our journey.