Voicepiece: Karen Middleton, Chief Health Professions Officer

Professionalism – the Big Conversation

I recently convened a meeting with a range of representatives (patients, professional bodies, the Health Professions Council (HPC) and clinical leaders) to discuss the issue of professionalism and professional behaviour with regard to the allied health professions. I want us to be proactive about addressing any concerns rather than reactive to something which is detrimental to patient care and which could damage the reputation of our professions. I wanted to understand whether there is any specific action we need to take collectively.

The Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust Enquiry and a number of reports by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) and others into the quality of care received by patients and their carers have stimulated my concern. There has also been a discussion at the National Allied Health Professions Informatics Taskforce about AHPs acting in a professional way with regard to informatics and digital technology. The Allied Health Professional Advisory Board debated the issue of professionalism at its last meeting too.

The HPC has commissioned Durham University to research this issue in more depth and its first report, which focuses on pre-registration training, is available on their website. All the AHP professional bodies are doing a great deal of work in this area but I am keen to see what I might lead as collective action.

While the HPC and the professional bodies clearly set out the standards of behaviour expected of AHPs and there are clear processes to address problems, including the ultimate sanction of being deregistered, the group felt we need to encourage AHPs to talk about the issue of professional behaviour in a more open and constructive way. We talked about clinicians giving and receiving feedback about behaviour in the same way we discuss clinical expertise and competence. We talked about creating an environment where unprofessional behaviour is challenged immediately and constructively on an individual basis. We acknowledged the impact of the organisational culture and the significant challenges we face on our ability to behave professionally, but agreed that as professionals we must take responsibility for our own behaviour.

To that end, I am signalling the start of the Big Conversation: Have you had the conversation yet? What I am hoping is that AHPs everywhere start talking to each other about the issue of professionalism and professional behaviour – in staff meetings, walking between wards, driving to meetings and during in-service training. Wherever and whenever, start talking about professional behaviour. What you think is and is not professional behaviour, and discuss examples. See what information your professional body can provide, look at the fitness to practice cases on the HPC website and also discuss guidance on use of social networking sites – see what happens.

Just see whether we can develop an environment where giving and receiving feedback about behaviour becomes the norm. Can we create a social movement about professionalism? Let’s be proactive together.

Do give me feedback on what you think and how your local conversations are going and we will endeavour to include further items in this bulletin.

One place where you can have the conversation is at this year’s AHP conferences. There will be one in each of the four strategic health authority (SHA) clusters, and they will be your first chance to come together and network within your cluster. This is going to be crucial as the sectors of the NHS Commissioning Board develop and you collectively support each other with the innovation and adoption required to drive up the quality and productivity of your services.

I look forward to meeting you at these events along with the other national speakers and to working with you on your local challenges around the commissioning and provision of high quality care.

Karen Middleton

Chief Health Professions Officer

In Professionalism, Voicepiece | Tagged , ,

3 Responses to Voicepiece: Karen Middleton, Chief Health Professions Officer

  1. Maria Quinn says:

    I thought you would like to know that as Clinical Director of Allied health professional services, with over 350 staff in the Trust, I am actively encouraging staff to have Big Conversations. I do think staff are much more challenging of poor practice and the Trust is explicit about what is un/acceptable behaviour. Occassionally, drivers such as performance targets/dashboards can divert attention away from quality issues, though they intend to do the opposite.If they are the wrong/superficial measures they can have significant impact on encouraging a reductionalist focus on component parts and not seeing the whole picture.

  2. Gill Cotterill says:

    As a manager of Physios for some years I am proud of the professionalism of our profession on the whole but an area that concerns me is the acceptance of poor spelling. We write reports, patient progress notes in the medical notes, solicitors reports- all of which are legal documents but sometimes the spelling that I see embarrasses me.
    I understand that acceptance of text-speak is now widespread but I feel that it shouldn’t encroach into our notes and reports.

  3. Karen West says:

    I agree with Maria’s comment about the potential for problems to arise when other issues start to get in the way.

    Patients and colleagues don’t always like the message we give them and it can be difficult for staff delivering those messages and dealing with angry/frustrated patients, families and colleagues to maintain a calm professional manner when they may be feeling quite the opposite inside.

    I am working with my team to help them to become more insightful and develop strategies for dealing with stressful situations.

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