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Rachel Podolak is BMA Cymru Wales National Director.
When I joined BMA Cymru Wales in November 2016, one of the first things on my desk was the, let’s just say very poor, results of a recent pan NHS Wales medical engagement survey.
You would have been right to have expected our initial reaction as a trade union to be one of outright anger and disappointment. However, thoughts soon progressed to what we could do to help change things for both doctors and the service here in Wales.
Firstly, what is it? The Medical Engagement Scale model defines medical engagement as:
‘the active and positive contribution of doctors within their normal working roles to maintaining and enhancing the performance of the organisation which itself recognises this commitment in supporting and encouraging high quality care.’
Why is it important? Good medical engagement is crucial; it allows individuals to enhance performance and innovation and quite simply - engaged doctors provide better experiences and outcomes for the patients they serve.
What have we done about it? Instead of shouting from the side-lines, we have worked with the Welsh NHS Confederation to deliver two national events on the topic, which led to commitments from Chief Executives and Medical Directors to consistently attend Local Negotiating Forums (locally held meetings between clinicians and employers) and I’m glad to say, in most health boards, this has been the case. However, the feedback suggested that more momentum was required on a local level to facilitate a wider discussion about the opportunities and challenges for better medical engagement.
So, it was a pleasure to support the first Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board medical and dental conference as part of the NHS’s 70th anniversary celebrations and witness first-hand the clear commitment from Tracy Myhill, Chief Executive and Hamish Laing, Medical Director, to move things forward in a positive direction. I congratulate ABMU the for leading the way.
The agenda included a frank Q&A with the Executive Team, as well as opportunities for group discussion.
‘A step in the right direction re collaboration’‘Shows senior management cares’‘Ability to voice concerns and offer solutions’ ‘[Ability to] network between primary and secondary care.’
This was some of the feedback from attendees which was really positive and provided some good ideas to help shape future events, which will be held at every health board in Wales throughout 2018.
Engagement is particularly important within the NHS as the service adapts to challenges from increasing demand to significant financial constraints. A recent survey from our members found that the level and type of engagement across the NHS can be poor and this concern was also raised in a motion at the BMA’s Annual Representative Meeting last year.
We need to build a stronger culture of engagement to empower and increase morale among doctors and the wider workforce which will result in doctors who feel valued and engaged. The BMA has 10 principles for medical engagement which we have been promoting within Wales.
As the King’s Fund says, medical engagement is a journey, not a [single!] event, which requires motivation from health boards to hospital wards but it’s clear that there is an appetite to improve the status quo. We are at the beginning of that journey and are determined to keep the spotlight on this issue until improvement is evident.
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