NHS Change Day – real people, real communication

Written by Vicky Burman on . Posted in Effective communication, Talking care

NHS Change Day is a wonderful, inspiring example of what can happen when people are encouraged to communicate in their own way, honestly and openly. Over 382,000 individual pledges online show that NHS staff in every sort of role, NHS suppliers, patients and members of the public have all made a commitment, in writing, to do something that will make a difference.

To borrow another large organisation’s slogan – every little helps. Reading specific pledges is a fascinating exercise in its own right and in offering an insight into the day-to-day work of many people within the NHS. The words they use, their tone of voice – even in a short sentence – show that they care, and that what they have pledged to do is something they personally see as important.

Encouragingly, many pledges relate to communication, whether face-to-face, over the phone or in writing. Picking a few at random, numerous people have joined a pledge to always say hello and give their first name whenever they make a new contact. Another person pledges to use their trust’s communication tools “to keep our staff, volunteers, patients and visitors up to date, informed and involved at all times”.

There are pledges to make patient information easier to understand so people can make informed decisions. Staff at one trust make the point: “Communication is essential and everyone should pledge to do more.” Individuals and teams are pledging to listen more, share views and invite questions and comments. For some, it comes down to improving their communication skills and getting into better habits, like replying to emails promptly. One of my favourites so far is a pledge to stop using acronyms when talking to colleagues who may not understand them.

Lots of things that can have a real impact, based on ideas from real people. And what is wonderful about NHS Change Day is that it started from Twitter discussion among a group of junior doctors, quickly gathered momentum as the idea spread and took hold at grassroots level, and was launched last year with 189,000 pledges.

What it also demonstrates is how the right communication channels can support this sort of mass conversation and positive input. Digital platforms offer wonderful opportunities for attracting individual contributions that should be valued, not feared.