Hello PPMA members and friends

I have already drafted a blog post for this week and this will appear shortly. It is about the work we are doing in London to share systems and services. It is I believe  a very important piece of work, but a few things have caught my attention this week that I wanted to comment upon and so my blog on Programme Athena will appear in a few days.

I was very pleased to attend on Wednesday an event hosted by Penna in our “Unspoken Truths” series. This one was about business partnering. It was extremely well-attended and we had a lively discussion about the merits and practical implications of having business partners as part of the overall HR service offering. We had some very informative presentations from Mike Watts of Bristol City Council, Lisa Freshwater, from London Borough of Camden and Anne Gibson, our Past President, from Norfolk County Council.

The common thread of what they had to say was that successful business partnering was not about structures or titles, it was about the mindset; having a focus on enabling services to maximise the volume and quality of their services by ensuring effective structures and people management. Anne emphasised the importance of HR as a whole being customer-focused and of seeing the “customer” not only in terms of the service department, its managers and its staff, but fundamentally recognising that the ultimate customer of HR are the service users.

This discussion was extremely timely given that on Wednesday the Francis Report was published, which unpicked the failings of the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust. It is an important read for everyone and there is a link here

The report focuses on a culture in the Trust which had a number of negative aspects:

•    A lack of openness to criticism
•    A lack of consideration for patients
•    Defensiveness
•    Looking inwards, not outwards
•    Misplaced assumptions about the judgements and actions of others
•    An acceptance of poor standards
•    A failure to put the patient first in everything that is done.

The report offers a reminder of what needs to be in place if a culture based around the customer and high-quality service is to be in place:

•    Emphasis on and commitment to common values throughout the system by all within it
•    Readily accessible fundamental standards and means of compliance
•    No tolerance of non-compliance and the rigorous policing of fundamental standards
•    Openness, transparency and candour in all the system’s business – the importance of the customer and employee voice being heard
•    Strong leadership
•    Strong support for leadership roles
•    A level playing field of accountability
•    Information accessible and useable by all, allowing effective comparison of performance by individuals, services and organisation.

Now what we know is that the consequences of this systemic and cultural failure were dire for many customers of the Trust. There are many examples of excellent patient care in the NHS and probably in Mid Staffordshire itself, but what I think this high-profile report does is remind us all of the importance of not taking the eye of the ball and sustaining a focus on the customer first and always and to ensure that this remains so as we go through a difficult period of change.

You may have seen that we have published on our website the nominees for our “Rising Stars” competition, which is taking place next week. I was extremely  saddened to learn that one of the nominees, Louise Miller, the Change and Implementation Manager at Central Bedfordshire Council, was killed in a car accident last week. I know that her colleagues are still coming to terms with this tragic news. On behalf of the PPMA I would like to express my condolences to the friends and family of Louise.

News such as this does help to keep in perspective some of the frustrations we all experience in our daily working lives. Let us not lose sight of why we are at work when we are at work, but remember that there is more to life….

Martin