These were the words that the Director of Finance at my current placement said when I met him to discuss my placement’s financial situation and his approach to it (they’re also lyrics from a Jessie J song). It was definitely not the response I was expecting from the Director of Finance, especially when the organisation I’m in is in financial difficulty. But when he explained it further, that his priority is building strong relationships with the other organisations within and outside the NHS so that they can work together to improve things for the local population, it got me thinking…why are relationships so important?
It seems such an obvious answer – if NHS organisations don’t have good relationships how can they hope to work together to provide the best service possible for patients, particularly at a time when resources are tight? I’ve seen first hand how my placement organisation is trying to improve and solidify relationships with other NHS providers, Local Authorities and Voluntary Organisations by inviting them to take a more active role in meetings and committees, implementing joint interviewing in some circumstances and just generally picking up the phone to talk to each other. These things are crucial to building the relationships and the trust that need to exist for things to change.
And that brings me on to one of the key benefits good relationships (in my opinion)…innovation. If organisations have strong relationships built on a foundation of trust they’re probably more likely to try something different whether that be innovations to a health service, innovation to the type of contracts being used between providers and commissioners or how organisations are governed, which is so important if the NHS is to survive. If organisations know they will be working in partnership they’ll probably be more likely to take the risk to do something different.
But, and it is a big but, these types of relationship take time to develop. Organisations need to invest the time and effort to develop and cultivate them which can be difficult to do in a busy and highly pressured environment. Added to which there can be a history of bad relationships between organisations which can be hard to overcome. This isn’t me saying that the time and effort isn’t worth it, quite the opposite, but it’s recognising that it probably won’t be a quick fix which can be at odds with government pressures for quick results and implementation of changes.
As the move forward with Integrated Care Systems continues it’s going to be ever more important to have these strong relationships as the services for Health and Social Care become more holistic and system wide. But more than that, in my view it’s just a better and more fulfilling way to work.
So to bring it back to what the Director of Finance said, while the ‘money, money, money’ (now I’ve got an Abba reference too!!) does play a role without developing good relationships organisations will be hard pressed to improve their financial position!
If you have any questions catch me on Twitter @JessyDouble