By Moi Tu
“I feel stuck. The odds are stacked against us.”
These are recent words of a team leader, whose energy is depleted from long patient lists, frayed teams, unread inboxes and unfinished interactions with colleagues – with no satisfying closure on any of it. Welcome to a typical day in health and care?
“Doing a great job” means teams and organisations facing unfamiliarity, whilst treading the same ethical dilemmas as before: innovation/risk, autonomy/control, sustaining/envisioning, performance/wellbeing… Nothing is new here, except the feet are unsteady from +18-months backlog served by Covid, a workforce crisis and more reform ahead.
How do we sustain optimism, energy and perseverance to care for care in a way that care deserves?
In delivering improvement, what’s needed to move towards collective wisdom and meaningful change?
In some ways the proposed reforms offer hope. The goodwill efforts and grit of Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) has influenced the Health and Care white paper. Beyond statutory boundaries, some ICSs have modelled a different collaborative approach – one that’s taken patience, fumbling, learning and trust to put interdependence and population health at its heart.
On paper the reforms support collaboration, removing competition as its organising principle – a welcome hurrah, right? No change comes without fear: how will this be empowered in practice? How will inevitable disruption affect care provision? What about the broader issues in inequalities, workforce, funding and social care?
It’s gloomy reading... Or is it simply that there’s no singular story for these challenges?
Hope is gloriously messy business. One version of the ICS story is that it's possible to build trust on precarious terrain, with no uniform rule-set – yet choppy waters are bridged between local authorities, voluntary and community bodies, and patient-centred care. It shows that progress isn’t all in big makeovers. It’s in finding space on long roads – events, conversations, questions – to gather richer insight, to arrive at a wise move towards meaningful change.
Dialogue like this needs openness, compassion and failure as part of learning and getting back up. These spaces are precious.
It’s easy to view this as ‘luxury’. How about calling it care? Care from partners, whose job is to listen and deliver inclusive spaces, thoughtful planning and strategic interventions.
This is the ‘care’ that gets me up in the mornings. Care that brings renewed energy and focus. In practice, this looks like –
- Well-designed, artful facilitation to bring more ease to collaboration and meeting purpose.
- Engaging events where small details matter; the dynamics shift in ways that surprises and enriches understanding across difference and boundaries.
- Space to think, sound out dilemmas with the compassionate ear of a critical friend.
- Support, wisdom and manageable tools and strategies that finds choices within complexity, that connects the disparate dots and communities – where a strategy that feels like a beast becomes an important ally.
And it’s always in the practice, not theory.
Because there’s never a single ‘right’ answer, why walk alone? If you’re interested in this kind of care, then I think we have something in common.
What this blog can't put into words yet is how people are trying to live and work as carers: wellbeing is fragile, and being is a daily struggle. But trust that there are plenty of real stories within and around us. Hopefully this blog series offers some fruit and fuel for conversations about care today - and hopefully these conversations help to shift our empathy from passive to active.