Gothenburg, IHI, ‘Fika’ and me: Learning from the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare

By Dr Rachel Ann Jones C.Psychol AFBPsS, National Learning Disability Programme Lead.

There were many powerful messages throughout the International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare in Gothenburg this June. But if I had to summarise the three day conference into one word it is “tillsammans”. A Swedish word, broadly meaning; together, in a relationship, hand in hand, in one place, jointly, in collaboration.

It is quite something to experience the coming together of a couple of thousand healthcare professionals from across the globe in one place with the singular shared purpose: discussing healthcare improvement by ‘Creating Tomorrow Today’ – the conference theme.

Covid-19 provided a unique backdrop for the event, the first face-to-face conference for many attendees. We were invited, with compassion, ‘to climb out of 2D tiles and be the 3D person we really are’. The pandemic has been described as increasing the sense of collective of the world’s population but also for the health and care profession who experienced it through a different lens.  No more evident, then when I found myself sharing a discussion about the pandemic response with nurses from various countries; with little common language beyond tears. The power of this session, matched only by hearing the accounts from healthcare professionals improvement work on the front line in Ukraine.

Despite these contexts, the conference struck an uplifting tone, future orientated and empowering. The pure pleasure of engaging with colleagues in person was evident and sharing ‘fika’, the Swedish coffee break and reflection time, often accompanied by a cinnamon pastry! The improvement science was abundant, not least in the engaging and well received session led by our own Prof John Boulton & Kate MacKenzie in respects to making ‘data count’. Data did count, as they filled the auditorium.

The theme of equity was described as having been finally pulled out of the “too difficult box”, as evidenced by the agenda, music to the ears, of someone working primarily in the field of health inequalities. Also etched throughout the conference, was co-production. Central to the Swedish approach was meaningful, equal and reciprocal partnership with patients particularly when undertaking improvement work. The premise, we make each other successful, we do our best work when we work together. The clear national vision of healthcare for Sweden was co-produced.

Tillsammans, was a golden thread during the three days. Of prime value to me, was leaving with an increased sense of connection with the team I travelled with from Wales, many of whom I had not met in person, something we know impacts positively on productivity, amongst other things. But also a feeling of collective with international healthcare professionals in attendance. Given that people and service recovery are so connected, and that recovery is relational, attending this event in its own right has felt like an improvement intervention for the team.  

The International Forum on Quality and Safety in Healthcare is jointly organised by the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and BMJ and is one of the largest international conferences focussed on driving health and care quality improvement and patient safety. Next year’s event will be held in Copenhagen on 15-17 May