Change or Transformation: What’s Appropriate for the NHS?

The NHS and the challenges of meeting either operational or financial performance targets or improving quality and safety is rarely out of the news.

A lot of the time the term ‘service transformation’ is mentioned. The continued use of the term transformation got me thinking. Of course like any organisation the NHS has to evolve.

On the other hand, when we are thinking about the way forward, is it change or is it transformation that is the right term. Transformation is defined as a marked change in form, nature, or appearance. Change is defined as to make or become different.

While there is some commonality between the two terms it seems that how we describe things could make a huge difference to whether it is achieved or not. I suspect a lot of people might think transformation is so radical that all the good stuff will be thrown out and lost. And as we all know, faced with any form of change or uncertainty, it is more likely that more resistance will be encountered if it seems radical, especially from those working in the service.

Of course the bigger challenge is to determine where any change or transformation is leading us to. It might lead to better use of resources, improved quality and improved financial performance.

On the other hand will it tackle the things that matter to people like:

• Being able to see a GP or a Consultant for an outpatient appointment when it is convenient for them

• Knowing that when they have a genuine emergency they will get access to the right person promptly

• Having services within reasonable difference

• Having the confidence that when they move from one care setting to another, they will still receive the same standard of care

• Not getting stuck in hospital due to a lack of foresight and forward planning around patient discharge.

So what’s my thought? I actually think that in many areas and specialities the NHS has gone through the change or transformation. Going forward it is vital there is clarity about what needs transformation and what needs change or adapting. Once we have this clarity it’s vital that this is clearly communicated in terms that make sense to those who work and those who use the services.

Duncan Brodie is Managing Director of Goals and Achievements who help healthcare organisations achieve more success through people. Learn more here.