Sunday, 1 June 2014

Simon Stevens and Steven Smith: Small and Smart is Beautiful

Last Bank Holiday weekend was Spring Fling, and as a treat I took an extra day off in order to make the most of the open artists' studios, and some complete down time. Down time for me means not turning the computer on to look at emails, and apart from writing last week's blog, that is precisely what I did. No email, no Twitter, no texts. At 04.30 on Wednesday morning I sat outside in the garden at the House in Scotland and felt much better for having enjoyed 5 days communication free days.

Sitting in the car park at the Wigan Royal Albert Edward Infirmary 3 hours later looking at the 100s of emails that had come in during that time, some of that good feeling disappeared. But I was there for this months Trust Board, and as always this proved to be a productive and effective meeting, made so by the quality of the papers considered, the timed chairmanship (something I am adopting with our School Executive meetings) and the amount of positive improvements reported upon across the work of the Trust.

The Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Trust is exactly the kind of hospital the NHS Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, declared we needed more of – that is hospitals that treat more patients in the local communities. Although it was reported in many newspapers that what was required was more Cottage Hospitals, I don’t think this is what Simon Stevens was describing. Many hospitals in the UK are no longer able to provide effective local services because to many specialist services have been stripped out and centralised.

Indeed this is the underpinning rationale for the so called ‘Healthier Together’ programmes which in Greaert Manchester seeks to provide more effective services to the Greater Manchester population by creating a small number of specialist hospitals (mainly the teaching hospitals) that will provide services for all of Greater Manchester’s population. Greater Manchester’s population stands at just under 3 million, Wigan on the other hand just over 300,000

The risk of greater centralisation is that the remaining hospitals lose so many services that they cease to be financially viable as local healthcare providers – and that’s before any developments in integrated health and social care services are considered. As the proportion of older people in the population grows, such services will increasingly become important. Of course centralising some services has proved to be very successful, stroke services for example, but local communities by and large need local health care services.

Another story last week that caught my eye, and ironically reported in the Telegraph newspaper was the story reporting on what Steven Smith (Vice Chancellor at Exeter University) described as a change in expectations of how students wanted to be communicated. Using emails to communicate was no longer seen to be effective – many if not most students don’t read or access their emails sites, preferring instead some form of social media. Today it is Twitter, tomorrow who knows. What I do know is that thanks to some very enthusiastic and skilled colleagues in our School, we are the leading exponent of social media as a tool for communication, teaching and improving the student’s experiences at the University.

Younger readers of this blog may not see the irony in the Telegraph reporting this story. The electrical telegraph system (with its Morse code, telegrams, ticker tape machines) was, in its day a revolutionary method for people to communicate. It was also like an early version of the internet. Telegraphy was constructed around message routing, social networking services, instant messaging, text coding and abbreviated ‘slang’ language usage. Of course today's social media is much more accessible and affordable –just like our health and social care services should be now and in the future.