New Health and Care Voices work on a ‘social movement’ basis with regular events to connect like-minded people together, to have meaningful conversations, share good practice and be influential. Their facilitated events are an opportunity for people to come together from across the Health and Care System to have conversations that help to inform the future of Health and Care.
The next event is taking place today, Thursday 12 February, in Leeds ( more details below). David Smith, who works in specialist mental health services, shared with us the value of the events for him and for service users, and the links, connections and diverse networks he has been able to build by widening the conversation.
After twenty years working in the voluntary sector my last ten have been in specialist mental health services. Like many sectors, mine has seen much change but for us the move towards person-centered, recovery-focussed services has required a huge shift, not only in terms of what we do but also how we do it, how we behave and how we connect with other providers.
Thinking back to the mid 2000’s, it was relatively easy sitting inside a small voluntary sector organisation to get caught up in day-to-day concerns. Things like will we have enough money to make it through the year? What will happen if our service is put out to tender? How do we know we’re doing a good job? Important stuff but inward looking and organisationally focussed. From inside the voluntary sector we saw the behemoth of the NHS changing, new language and structures emerging, but how did we become part of it? How do we understand the jargon and most importantly of all, how do we genuinely work together to join-up our services to offer the best possible solution for the people who need them?
For a long time I struggled with this question. I attended consultation events, engagement sessions and board meetings but somehow I always felt like an outsider; not really one of the team, a distant contributor rather than a genuine partner.
I knew this needed to change but struggled to find the formal, official channels to make it happen.
So what did I do? Eventually I decided to bypass the formal channels and start making contact with people directly and once I started to look, was amazed at what I found: the networks, the energy and the passion. On reflection it’s clear that this approach simply would not have worked ten years ago because communication was so different back then. What’s changed now is simple - social media: Twitter, LinkedIn and even Facebook. Direct, instantaneous contact that cut across all hierarchies and for the first time allowed access to people who could truly affect change.
Starting tentatively at first, I began to comment on public debates. Before long I was connected to a wide range of people that would previously have been far out of reach. Whilst some were clearly playing the corporate line what amazed me was how many genuinely wanted to share, to learn and debate.
And it didn’t stop in the virtual world. Public meetings began to become a game of who did I recognise from Twitter. People I’d never met in person before greeted me like an old friend. Social media broke down barriers and opened doors that led not only to my own development and learning but also new ideas, innovation and partnerships in my day-to-day work too.
Within this swirl of social media it gradually became apparent that there were also a group of people who wanted to talk not only about policy and services but also less tangible matters like change, leadership and motivation.
New Health Care Voices
By early 2014 I had stumbled across the ‘New Health Care Voices’ group and I attended one of their first sessions in Leeds. To say I was blown away is an understatement. There were about 80 people; all buzzing, excited and wanting to talk about change. An inspirational speaker started us off, then we had free reign to talk, share, learn and network. In that first session I learned more about the NHS that I had in the previous five years. And it didn’t stop there. The conversations continued on Twitter, people connected on LinkedIn. Ideas, encouragement and support seemed to be available on tap, and for the first time in many years I became genuinely excited about how the voluntary and public sectors could work together to bring about real change.
Since that first meeting I’ve attended others in London and Birmingham, with each event adding to my physical and online networks. The ideas and encouragement I’ve received have given me the courage I needed to start thinking much more ambitiously about change, about what’s possible and about how all of our sectors can work differently to make a difference for the people we are here for.
And you know what? Apart from some minor costs all of this has been at negligible expense. It’s been the passion of the people involved who brought about the change. If NHS Change Day is to succeed these are the people we must harness as our cheerleaders, because these are the people who will take risks, push boundaries, inspire others and ultimately bring the change we need to improve the care and wellbeing of those who use our services.
The New Health and Care Voices event is taking place tonight (Thursday February 12th) from 6pm till 9pm, at Munro House, Leeds. To find out more and to book your place visit www.newhcvoices.co.uk/please-join-us-at-our-next-event-in-leeds.