Dr Lisa Curtice: NHS failures can be the catalyst for healthy change

Picture: PA
Picture: PA
Share this article
Have your say

PUBLICATION of the Francis Report into the failures of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust is one of those climatic moments that confront us with past failures and the compelling need to do things differently in future.

To bring about change, management gurus stress the importance of leadership, and it is true that staff need support from management at every level to enable them to practice compassionate, person-centred care. But, as we have seen in the campaign that brought the mid-Staffs scandal to book, carers, patients and support groups also have a critical leadership role.

June Bailey, who led the “Cure the NHS” campaign, said she succeeded because she never lost sight of what was important and had a fantastic group of people behind her. The NHS needs that energy and commitment. People who use services, their families, local groups and third-sector organisations must be equal partners in the effort to transform systems and culture to put the person first.

A word that occurs less in the Francis Report, if at all, is power. Yet it is clear that managers, staff and patients all need to be empowered – to advocate for human rights and basic dignity and to speak up without fear.

In Scotland, some of the strategic levers are already in place. The healthcare quality strategy has three key ambitions: that care should be safe, person-centred and effective. My own programme – People Powered Health and Wellbeing – is part of the quality strategy drive for improvement. Meanwhile, the Scottish Human Rights Commission is developing a national action plan for human rights, which will apply across the public sector.

We face a challenge of significant magnitude; no less than the need to turn systems on their head and put the person, not the chief executive or target, on top. The knowledge of how to do this is being built – in movements for self management, self-directed support and citizen leadership.

The Francis Report is another reinforcement of the need for a new relationship between public services and citizens; one in which trust is mutual, power is shared and people are at the centre.

• Dr Lisa Curtice is the programme director for People Powered Health and Wellbeing, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland