This is a guest blog from my colleague Anna McEwen (@AnnaSharedLives):
The NHS is great for putting us back together. In the last month alone I’ve needed three different health interventions or procedures where my body has let me down. I am amazed at what modern medicine can do where in the past I’d probably have had to grin and bear it. Some of those interventions have been brilliant – community clinics carrying out operations rather than having to go into hospital, text and book rather than a series of letters in the post to appointments I inevitably can’t make; others less so when I’ve waited many months for a repeat of an intervention that didn’t work the first time, simply because that is the protocol.
But that’s the point of the NHS, putting us back together when we need it. It’s not so good at giving us a good life when we have conditions that aren’t a ‘one off’ or ‘put me back together and send me on my way’.
Last week I joined the latest cohort on the Leadership for Empowered Communities and Personalised Care (LECPC) programme. Some people have questioned why I’m doing this, when the very nature of what we do at Shared Lives Plus is in its essence based in the heart of communities and epitomises personalised care. I’ve ‘grown up’ very much with those values at the heart of what I do in community based roles, advocacy and even as a commissioner very much engaged in finding community based solutions to the needs of local people. However, I think it’s important for all of us as leaders to find time to stop, step back from the day job, listen and reflect which is why I’ve joined this programme.
On the first day of the programme I was struck by Cormac Russell’s analogy of Humpty Dumpty being picked up and not able to be put back together by the King’s horses and King’s men – what if he’d fallen on the other side of the wall and been caught by his neighbours, friends and community? What would have happened then? And we’re very quick to call something a ‘crisis’ and treat as such (homelessness, social care, loneliness etc.) when they are in fact a chronic situation and if we stopped the crisis reaction and looked instead to long term, community based solutions designed with and for the people involved we’d have a better chance of success. The more we move into the acute, crisis mode, says Russell, the more we disable citizens.
As a commissioner, I was all about commissioning for outcomes but now wonder if we are commissioning for the right outcomes: those softer outcomes which really make a difference to people’s lives – like building relationships, talking to a neighbour, volunteering in the community, joining a local group. These are the things that give our lives meaning and purpose and ultimately give us well-being, not just ‘being’.
We know all about these outcomes in Shared Lives, people tell us they make new friends, join groups in their community that aren’t labelled as being for disabled people and gain a sense of well being that they’ve not previously experienced which can have profound benefits on both physical and mental health. I was inspired by others on the LECPC programme who are leading some really innovative work in small patches around the country and I know there is a wealth of amazing stuff happening.
When I tell people about Shared Lives, they always say it’s a no-brainer, that it’s a brilliant solution etc. etc. But that no-brainer is still small, and struggling to break any ground as a healthcare solution. The 200-plus people who our Shared Lives Ambassadors (who have lived experience of Shared Lives) spoke to recently at NHS Expo all agreed that it was a brilliant idea, but still the system bogs us down and makes it difficult to do new things.
My take away from the leadership programme this week was to give away more power, listen more, and get more disruptive. So, for people who are ready to get disruptive in the health system and develop new ways to give people a good life, not just put them back together when they need it, we’re running a series of free workshops facilitated by Nesta to look at how you could develop Shared Lives where you are.
We really need people who think Shared Lives is a no-brainer to make it a reality for people so do sign up and come along to one of our sessions so we can help you to help more people have a good life. It’s free, there is nothing to lose, so come along or share the invite with a colleague and let’s get disruptive……
The workshops will take place from 11am – 3pm in the following locations:
Monday 28th October: London (Friends House, Euston Road, NW1 2BJ)
Tuesday 29th October: Birmingham city centre (venue tbc)
Monday 4th November: Manchester (Manchester Art Gallery, Mosley St, Manchester M2 3JL)