The power of giving staff control over improving patient care

Jessica Heardman is an advanced practitioner at Preston's urgent care centre
Jessica Heardman is an advanced practitioner at Preston's urgent care centre

The boss of the firm which runs the urgent care centres at the Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital has put a positive report from regulators down to giving frontline staff the freedom to implement their own ideas.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) rated the head office of ‘gtd healthcare’ as good overall, but judged the leadership of the organisation to be “outstanding”.

The not-for-profit health firm’s chief executive, David Becket, paid tribute to his workforce for the way in which they had responded to an innovation fund, established to help them put their priorities into practice.

“We’ve enabled staff to take control of improving patient care and the environment in which they work,” David explained.

“It sounds cliched, but we want our staff to be happy – because then they are more motivated and better understand how they can help make improvements.

“If we create an environment like that, it filters through to patients who then engage with our services better.”

Staff who want to pitch ideas and secure a share of the annual £25,000 innovation fund present their proposals to a Dragon’s Den-style panel of clinical and non-clinical colleagues. It was a process which made advanced practitioner Jessica Heardman, who works at the Royal Preston site, “a little nervous” – but she says that she has been delighted to see her ideas making a difference to patients.

“I wanted staff to get advanced life support training – beyond the high standard that is already expected. Those additional skills can be really helpful in a life-threatening situation.

“I also suggested improvements to the environment for our younger patients and we are currently in the process of buying new resources and equipment.

“If you make the surroundings more comfortable, then children are more likely to be compliant with any examinations which they need to have – so it’s a much more patient-friendly environment for the child and that helps make their parent or carer less anxious, too.”

The individual urgent care services in Preston and Chorley are rated as good from previous CQC inspections more than eighteen months ago.

David Becket said that a new triage process introduced late last year with the neighbouring hospital Accident and Emergency departments is now working well. An initial trial of joint triage between the facilities led to increases in waiting times.

“One of my proxy measures of how things are going is how many calls I get from the hospital trust – and they have reduced.

“The teams on the ground have become more comfortable working alongside each other and, across the Preston and Chorley sites, the urgent care centres are seeing up to 250 patients a day. They are patients who would otherwise have ended up in A&E, so we’re making a positive contribution,” Mr. Becket added.