Walking a mile in someone else’s shoes with the Safe Care Partnership

By Prof John Boulton, Director of Improvement Cymru and National Director of NHS Quality Improvement and Patient Safety.

Prof John Boulton, Director Improvement Cymru

One of the very few benefits of the last few years is that I have managed to start running again. Granted it is more like a plod, but I have been putting in the miles on my treadmill and the roads. I am very slowly getting better, a little bit faster and, touch wood, a little bit lighter.

I wonder if any of you reading this blog would be willing to walk or run a mile with me over the next several months. I’d be more than happy to run with you in person if you could slow down for me. But the mile I am talking about here is maybe a little different. Improvement Cymru works alongside organisations to create the conditions, build the capability and make the connections to enable improvement to flourish. It sounds very worthy. But none of that can be done without understanding context. And in order to do that we need to walk a mile with our colleagues in health boards and trusts who continue to deliver care in the most challenging of circumstances. And at times we may need to run.

On behalf of NHS Wales, Improvement Cymru have recently created the Safe Care Partnership with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) and health boards and trusts throughout Wales. The reason for this partnership is to support the mission of Improvement Cymru in supporting the creation of the best quality health and care system for Wales so that everyone has access to safe, effective and efficient care in the right place and at the right time across the whole care system. Over the last several weeks I have visited a number of health boards and trusts with team members and IHI to understand the context. What is happening in organisations? What are the challenges? What are the things they need support with? What, where and who are the bright spots?

I feel very honoured to have been invited into many clinical and non-clinical areas as part of these visits. And it has been very humbling to see the pride with which staff have shared their commitment to the work that they do on a daily basis. It has also been levelling hearing of the challenges.

Improvement Cymru and IHI are seeking to understand how we most effectively support teams and organisations to continue to address the quality and patient safety agenda in Wales. It is clear that there are common themes that are beginning to emerge from the visits.

Safe Care Together is the overarching theme of the work that we are currently undertaking with health boards and trusts. Ultimately it will evolve into a Patient Safety Collaborative at the end if this calendar year.

But to deliver safe care, together, we need to really understand what is happening and the challenges faced by all. From board to ward, and beyond. And that is the work we are currently undertaking.

To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes has its origins in a poem by an American poet, Mary T Lathrap:

Pray, don’t find fault with the man that limps,
Or stumbles along the road.
Unless you have worn the moccasins he wears,
Or stumbled beneath the same load.

There may be tears in his soles that hurt
Though hidden away from view.
The burden he bears placed on your back
May cause you to stumble and fall, too…….

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins
And remember the lessons of humanity taught to you by your elders.
We will be known forever by the tracks we leave
In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins.

It resonates strongly with the work we are currently undertaking in seeking to understand. I look forward to learning more with you as we continue around Wales. More information on the Safe Care Partnership can be found here.