Most of us would agree that we are facing a period of great economic and political uncertainty – and at a time when the NHS is under increasing demand and pressure.
We have to work in radically different ways to meet the challenges facing the health service - as the NHS Five Year Forward View and the Next Steps on the NHS Five Year Forward View made clear - and a key part of this is breaking down organisational barriers and joining up our efforts in a multi-agency health and care economy.
Networks and their leaders are a critical vehicle for achieving the changes that are needed across health and care – they sit at the heart of great leadership and large scale change. Networks have the potential to revolutionise the way care is delivered.
Recognising the power and potential of networks, NHS England’s Sustainable Improvement team joined with London South Bank University to create Source4Networks – a comprehensive and evidence-based online platform designed to support network leaders across health and care to tackle the challenges they face today.
This new platform provides an easy way to keep up-to-date with evidence-based best practice, literature, methodology and access to network development tools, and to be a part of a thriving community of network leaders from across the health and care system.
Linked to this, we recognised the need for high-quality, in-depth learning opportunities for people leading or facilitating networks. Developing Effective Networks for Change and Improvementis a new online course that builds on a successful course we developed as 'NHS Improving Quality – the Network Leadership Programme'.
We’ve developed this free 11-week course, which starts in January 2019, with leading network expert Professor Becky Malby, and it provides the building blocks to develop and sustain effective networks. It is unique in its scope and depth in the topic of networks for health and care, and provides an ideal chance to learn the latest theory and best practice without having to travel to meet face-to-face.
If you’re involved in leading or facilitating a network, I strongly encourage you to apply to join the course. Places are limited so don't miss out!
Networks and their leaders are a critical vehicle for achieving the changes that are needed across health and care.
Ultimately, the solutions to our complex health and care challenges lie in the huge human capital that exists in the NHS, its patients, and its many partners. We have to forge relationships through trusting and high quality peer exchanges, engage in co-design and co-production with staff and patients, and reach out to and trust people.
The fuel of all change is conversations. In this busy, fast-paced, highly demanding and social media driven world, we can forget how to have good conversation. Communications and positive relationships are key. We remember good conversations that make a mark on us - because we have connected personally, through empathy and as social beings.
Society expects so much more of our clinicians and leaders than ever before, and there has never been a better time to understand what leadership is and isn’t, and how networks can play a significant role in the meeting of these expectations and ambitions.
Granted, networks aren’t always the best solution to a problem. But when they are, they provide supportive safe environments, orientation to a common goal and purpose, and trust and resilience in their members. People are motivated by autonomy, a sense of mastery and a sense of purpose, and great network leadership and organisation can create the environment for all of these conditions to thrive.
Rob Cockburn is Improvement Manager in the Sustainable Improvement Team at NHS England.