My engagement work on the NHS Constitution took a new approach recently when I ran a Twitter Hour. It was absolutely brilliant! I’m so grateful to everyone for taking part. It was such a stimulating discussion I’ll be running another this Thursday,18 October, 1-2pm. We’ll be talking about patient involvement with the Constitution – do join in! We’ll be using the hashtag #nhsconstitution.
That first Twitter Hour was an open invitation to discuss how to strengthen the Constitution. It was wonderful to see so many different people getting involved. People tweeted from patients’ organisations and professional bodies, from the voluntary sector and faith groups. We heard from patients, carers, advocates or those who just cared deeply about our NHS. Staff who have roles across the NHS – medical, care and administration – also contributed to this great discussion.
It was no surprise to me that lack of awareness emerged strongly as a common theme. Previous surveys have already shown that only a quarter of the public know about the Constitution. Low levels of awareness – and the need to rectify this – have come up consistently in the many meetings I’ve had with different stakeholders about the Constitution over the past weeks.
People offered superb ideas for tackling this. These ranged from running YouTube competitions, producing apps and resource packs, to presenting the Constitution’s key messages visually in one striking infographic. @MichaelaScarlet advocated “going viral” using real people and real stories, as well as getting the Constitution into scripts for Corrie and Holby City.
But it’s not enough for people – especially those working in the NHS – just to know about the NHS Constitution. As @Manjit49 tweeted:
“Getting the culture right is the key.”
Tweeters were just as forthcoming with ideas on how to get NHS staff living the values of the Constitution. A common suggestion was to get the Constitution into their job descriptions and inductions, consolidated by incorporating it into appraisals for every member of staff. Many also felt the way the NHS handles complaints and seeks feedback needs revising if the Constitution is to have teeth.
Something of this approach has already been tried in the East of England. Here, they embedded the Constitution in everything from board meetings to individual appraisals. As a result, staff awareness was higher than other regions and public awareness in this region was 50 per cent higher than average.
New NHS organisations – such as the NHS Commissioning Board, clinical commissioning groups and Health Education England – will have a duty to promote the Constitution. The lessons from East of England and the many suggestions we have heard during our engagement will certainly provide food for thought in helping these organisations do this.
I was hugely heartened by the level of interest shown in the Twitter discussion. Health and care professionals clearly saw the potential of the Constitution to help them change the way they work for the better. For @verityktw:
For me, the Constitution is the DNA of the NHS. I strongly believe it gives us the blueprint for ensuring we develop a service fit for all patients – one that is based on care and compassion and lives up to its core values.
So, for those working in NHS services, how do we create a culture that helps us use the Constitution as it should be used every day: to make our NHS the best it can be for everyone?