Culture is possibly the most important, but also over-used and, at times, meaningless concept deployed by those interested in the organisation and improvement of healthcare.
We are frequently told that high performing organisations have the 'right culture'. And in healthcare, organisations with the ‘right culture’ are often seen as safer, more efficient or more responsive.
When I took up post at Healthwatch England in 2013, I had travelled across many policy domains, working in charities, in academia and in government, but I was a newcomer to health.
With the natural curiosity of the foreigner in a new land, I was intrigued by the amount of heat generated in conversations about patient and public involvement. I saw emotions run high, and predominant amongst those emotions was frustration. Frustration from patient groups who ask: why are we not being heard/taken seriously/in the right conversations at the right times? And frustration too from the managers, commissioners and practitioners who wearily confess that engagement feels like another burden, a further task on their crowded to-do lists.