Each week during The School for Change Agents, we make a podcast with behind-the-scenes discussion from the team who create School.
Episode 3, Season 2 of Agents Assemble The School for Change Agents is here and we are talking about Solving Together!
In this episode, host Kerry McGinty is joined by Tim Ferris – Director of Transformation at NHS England and Bev Matthews – Clinical lead of NHS Horizons and programme director for Solving Together.
Tim & Bev share the story of Solving Together. The improvement method that captures, assesses, tests and shares ideas on a range of issues affecting our Health services. In this fascinating conversation we discover how Solving Together works, the vision and why everyone should take part.
This transcript has been created by Sonix:
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:09] Hello and welcome to this episode of Agents Assemble. Brought to you by NHS Horizons. This is the podcast where we expand and explore the teachings of the School for Change Agents. I’m your host, Kerry McGinty, and today I’m really, really excited to be talking about solving together. Now solving together features in week five of the School for Change Agents, and it’s a method for change that success is building and growing. The initiative captures, assesses tests and shares ideas on a range of issues affecting our health services. To tell us more about solving together. I’m so delighted and chuffed today to be joined by the Director of Transformation at NHS England, Tim Ferris, and Clinical lead of NHS Horizons and Programme, Director of Solving Together, Bev Matthews. So welcome everybody.
Tim Ferris : [00:00:57] Thank you.
Bev Matthews: [00:00:57] Hi, Kerry.
Kerry McGinty: [00:00:59] How are we feeling today?
Bev Matthews: [00:01:01] Good. The sun is shining.
Kerry McGinty: [00:01:03] Oh, fantastic. Well, I as we’ve heard in the little intro here, this podcast is all about sharing and learning. And this year’s edition of the School of Change Agents had a new part of a module all about solving together. So we’ve heard a little bit about it. I’ve seen it all over Twitter. We’ve seen people get involved. But for people that might not know. Bev could you describe what solving together is if someone has never heard of it before?
Bev Matthews: [00:01:31] Yeah. So solving together is an engaging approach. It’s an innovative way of gathering ideas, solutions, prototyping and testing approaches, all that can support the priorities for health and care. And it’s about mobilising people and people who know the most, those who are delivering care or those who are receiving it or leading services with an ambition of we might have a specific topic that we’re focussed on, but actually they all link together and how do we make this transformational change? Bringing people with us, making services work and collectively working together on things.
Kerry McGinty: [00:02:14] So it’s really sounds it sounds amazing. Basically, what we’re doing is you’re creating this big community and and it’s a methodology that uses quite a lot of tools. It’s not just one aspect of it. And in order, you know, as you say, gathering ideas to make change happen. So how does that work?
Tim Ferris : [00:02:33] Listen, health care is facing all over the world. Health care is facing unprecedented challenges and the pace and. And a need for change is increasing. And. And change is complicated, right? Everyone knows that, especially in an inherently conservative industry like the delivery of health care. I mean, you don’t want to be too radical when you’re talking about actually taking people who are suffering and people who literally whose lives can be at risk. And so. So on one hand, we need to be really careful. On the other hand, the situation, the current situation, we’re we’re facing these unprecedented challenges and we need to move at pace. So how do you solve the problem of of the great ideas coming in? And they come in from every direction outside the industry, inside the industry, and and and isolate the the most productive changes and then drive them throughout the health system so that really we have the the benefits equally spread among all. And and this is where solving. Together really provides an extraordinary platform because all of us in our work lives. I’m going to channel the psychologist Daniel Pink for a second and just say we’re all interested in he said three things mastery. We want to be good at our jobs purpose. We want to feel as if our jobs are actually delivering something. We in health care are pretty fortunate on the purpose front. And then he said he used the word autonomy. But I would say actually, I don’t think he got it quite right. I would say agency is the most important thing. And so how do you capitalise? I’ve talked about the great ideas. Yes, the front line has those great ideas, but we also need to reflect the the the mastery purpose and importantly the agency.
Tim Ferris : [00:04:53] So solving together is I mean, it is at its core a tech platform. And I’m sure Bev would hate for me to say it like that, but, but, but it is a tech platform that allows crowdsourcing everyone to participate in the process. And so the tech platform is a key enabler. But, but actually it’s the interactions that are occurring on the tech platform, learning from each other. So not learning from top down, but learning from each other across huge geographic distances. And that’s what the technology allows us to do instantly. But it’s also importantly the curation process. And here too, so in in our early work. Multiple similar ideas would come in and and the curation process allows us to say, well, actually these 20 ideas are all sort of variations on a theme. We can put them into a singular framework using the best articulation from each of those and then put that forward and say, Hey, this came from you and this is what you think is the best way to address a problem. A. And hey, let’s do it. Let’s actually and this is where leadership comes in, because the leadership can look at those curated ideas and say, you know, we’ve got limited funds, we have to deploy them. We have some biases and predisposition about what where that money might be best spent. But actually, the best source for me is exactly what Horizons provides, which is the the the, the, the the input from the entire country against some of our critical challenges. So I don’t know, Bev, is how did I do?
Bev Matthews: [00:06:53] Brilliantly. I think I would employ you. And so the other thing I would add is the importance of community management that goes on behind to exactly create those conditions that it isn’t just somewhere to go, drop your idea in as a repository and not come back. It’s about stretching the ideas, making them richer. Looking at, you know, how did you do that? What were the components of it? I’ll go and try it. You know, it’s people taking stuff in real time from the platform and testing it out for themselves in their own areas, as well as the big ideas that we may take forward to support through prototyping and testing. But no, I thought you did brilliantly.
Kerry McGinty: [00:07:39] I mean, a few points that I was picking up on there. The agency, that word means a lot to people listening and fans of the schools change agents because it’s about people finding their own agency. And also this kind of it is a kind of movement solving together because it’s like a very democratic approach. It’s like no idea is too small, too silly, because the smallest idea actually that could be a quick win for someone up in the Northeast or the Southwest or Narnia, wherever you are, where we want to help. But I think as well, I think it’s really important that kind of the different phases, it just seems like a very democratic kind of process of everybody has their say. Even when things get whittled down, it’s on to the next one and on to the next one, and let’s work together to make this happen. And I guess that’s why you came up with the very swanky name solving together, because that is what it’s all about. And so going on from that, and that’s kind of how it works. And you’ve given us a bit of an insight there. I wondered, Bev, if you might be able to share some examples of how that’s worked or any of the impact of the kind of work you’ve done so far? Because as a as we know, this solving together, this is just the beginning and you’re already making a lot of waves.
Bev Matthews: [00:08:57] Yeah, and it’s quite broad, the ideas that we’re taking forward. And you know, as Tim said, it’s not a single idea. It’s a gathering of ideas where we’ve stood back and looked at not what does the idea tell us, but what are people telling us around, what is important and what needs some attention and focus. So, you know, work that we’re working on from the elective care recovery kind of is really broad and is around some artificial intelligence, around a chat bot contact centre, for example, for people who are being referred for elective care so that, you know, much like your bank, you know, where you can speak to somebody, you might get some bot answers to start with, but you can get to a human if your answers aren’t started across through to intelligent automation. So when you’re being referred for an assessment, being able to send some additional information so that the clinical team can actually help you to get to the right clinic appointment first time and also potentially do some preparation specific to you, not a general, you know, leaflet being sent out but actually specific for you. These things would help or actually this clinic isn’t the right clinic that clinics the right clinic can get you there first time by that additional information that can be shared right across to from the discharge challenge that we did. One of the key things coming out of that is actually the role of volunteers and how volunteers could help.
Bev Matthews: [00:10:32] For example, somebody could be discharged home in the morning, but their tablets to take home be sent home later to them by a volunteer service. You know, that’s safe and timely, but also enables people to get home in daylight so that they’re in a good place at the right time. They could have some support for a couple of weeks, some checking charts. You know, all of that could enable people to be discharged in a much earlier way. So so the kind of ideas that we’re taking forward are really broad. And some of them may take a few years to actually come to fruition. But if we don’t. Start now on some of this visionary work. We will never start on it. But there are also ideas that are making an impact today. The volunteers, we can set that up very quickly when we get the safe framework in place, which is what we’re working on. So it’s really broad. And the other thing is that’s important for us as well is just to acknowledge even the ideas that don’t form into the big ideas. So we’re working with the Q community, the Fab Academy, you know, other places where they have repositories of good ideas that can be shared and used. So creating that space where everybody who contributed into whichever platform we have live at the time actually has a space and a say and a potential to drive improvement.
Kerry McGinty: [00:11:58] I mean, it sounds it just sounds brilliant. And the fact those examples there and, you know, people getting home in daylight, it’s those small things that mean mean the world. I mean, that’s you win at home in time for a sandwich and some loose women, but also just to feel safe, to feel safe and just to feel comfort after you’ve been in hospital, which can be scary and, you know, just discombobulating for just anyone, really. It’s out of the norm. And so talking about we’ve had to talk about how it works and, you know, the current ideas which are all brewing. And it sounds like I can see your passion shining through and everyone’s nodding. I know it’s a podcast. It’s always weird, isn’t it? But yes, everyone’s nodding and smiling away at the answers. But a question to both of you now as we kind of draw to to to near the end of this chat, which is absolutely flown by, I would think that we need a day podcast, but I’m not sure that Spotify would let me upload it. And looking to the future, we’ve heard what we’re doing with solving together right now, but what is the potential for solving together for the for the future? How does a scheme like solving together help health and social care benefit in the long term?
Tim Ferris : [00:13:17] Yeah. Well, should I take a stab at this and just say what is remarkable about solving together one of the many remarkable things about it is the scalability. And so it can go all the way from a group of ten people who want to use the platform just among themselves at the level of a practice. It could be used at the level of a a trust, a mental health trust, a dgx. It could be used at the level of an ICS. So ICS leaders and this is where you’re really its power begins to take hold because you are literally on the platform bringing people together who wouldn’t geographically come into contact with one another. And then of course, the national use case, which is what we’re we’re using it. But it’s it’s deployment is so easy. Not that it’s not. It doesn’t it does have overhead associated with it, but the overhead is so low compared to the power of the insight that comes from it. And it can be simultaneously deployed at all those levels, answering really different questions. And so that’s the to me, that’s a real leveraged advantage. It’s it’s leveraging our organisation and our intellectual assets through the use of technology, enabled by the use of technology in a way that. Enables that participation, that agency that I spoke of earlier at scale. And and it’s really it’s hard it’s hard for me. I can’t think of other ways of capturing that in the focussed way that we need against our priorities. So I’m a, I’m a real fan obviously, Carrie and and and but it is the the. The sort of. Omnivorous, if I can, if you’ll pardon me, if I use that word applicability to all of our problems at any scale, that really makes this quite an exciting technology.
Kerry McGinty: [00:15:49] Fantastic. I thought you said carnivorous or dinosaurs then for a second, Tim, but I digress. Bev Maybe in one sentence it’s very difficult. I like to give you the toughest challenges. It’s a bit of get your own back grunge time. If anyone’s a fan of that 90 show, but if you could sum up in one sentence what you could see for the future potential of solving together and give it a whirl.
Bev Matthews: [00:16:15] Shel Yeah, so, so I’m very similar to Tim, probably influenced by Tim and his vision. But if we could create a space where people could go in a virtual front door and turn into this room, that’s a closed room for their trust and working on things in their trust go on further and go to the national space. But somewhere that’s actually really easy and send in lots of URLs and links and which 1 a.m. I on and where am I? But actually kind of a warehouse, if you like, of corridors where people can have the conversations in between the structured groups, you know, that shared learning, the accelerated learning of what what is a certain trust doing or a certain yes, how do we cross-pollinate across them. But for me, that would be the massive win out of this.
Tim Ferris : [00:17:09] All right, so here’s my vision, Carrie. I want. I want. Everyone who works in the NHS. To feel really good about entering in ideas two, three, four or five times a year. That’s just a normal thing to do. And I want everyone in the house to point to some change that occurred in the NSS and say, I contributed to that. I was part of that because I was submitting ideas. That’s that is the vision that I would like to achieve in the NHS.
Kerry McGinty: [00:17:47] Well, I don’t think we can top that. And looking at both of you beaming in the passion and the determination. I’m not betting against you. I’m going to put a fiver on at the betting shop because honestly, I think solving together it’s gathering the people and it’s gaining momentum and I can’t see what happens next. And I’m sure the next up day, I’d love to get you back on for another update in a chinwag, but well, that is the end of our time. I just want to say a massive thank you to our amazing guests, Beth MATTHEWS and Tim Ferris. I really wish that we could have chatted all day about it because it’s been so brilliant and please do head over to solving together dot crowded city dot com right now so you can have a little nosey about what we’ve been talking about and to get involved and see the progress that’s being made and keep up to date with all of the upcoming projects. Thank you so much for listening and I hope everybody has an amazing day. Thank you.