It is with great pleasure that I post another ‘in my shoes’ guest blog today. Congratulations to Olivia Butterworth, Head of Public Voice, and colleagues at NHS England for recruiting ‘a little gem.’ I am delighted to post Shahana Ramsden’s story at such a pivotal point in what I am sure will continue to be a very impressive and worthwhile career. It has been lovely to have a bit of banter with her new colleagues – they seem a very human bunch. 🙂
And I am happy to think that encouraging Shahana to engage fully with Twitter and setting her a #10aday target has helped her make some wonderful new connections.
Shahana believes in genuine co-production, equality and inclusion. Not in a theoretical way but in a ‘day-in, day-out, at all times and in all circumstances’ kind of way. When Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) were interested in a partnership to produce an electronic version of Whose Shoes?®, fully aligned to the ‘Making It Real’ agenda, it was Shahana who made sure that the proposal had the full support of the National Co-production Advisory Group; I applaud this authenticity and consistency. It is not surprising that they will miss her.
In October 2013, I got to know Shahana better when we attended the 23rd European Alzheimer Conference together and presented a wildly over-subscribed Whose Shoes? workshop to a diverse international audience.
You can see the video of our Malta workshop here. We had a great time – working hard and playing hard and making new friendships. Here is Shahana’s story….
The timing was perfect as I started my new role as Patient and Public Voice manager with NHS England, just a few days before the Health and Care Innovation Expo. This felt like an accelerated induction programme, bringing together stakeholders across Health and Social Care to share and explore innovation.
I arrived to the buzz of NHS Expo feeling slightly dazed. During my two day journey through the conference, I felt that I had been visited by a benevolent version of Dickens’s ghost of Christmas past, as I met people from my past, present and future working life each with a reminder of where I had come from and where I want to be.
I wondered into the Community Space and immediately bumped into a former colleague, Ranjit Sengera from my time with the National Delivering Race Equality in Mental Health (DRE) programme. One of the lasting impacts of DRE had been the introduction of 500 Community Development Workers who engaged directly with communities at a local level to improve outcomes for people with Mental Health needs. It was appropriate, then, that my unexpected reunion with my former colleague took place in the Expo’s Community Space which had been transformed into a beautiful community garden area alive with conversations, pledges and feedback flags- a symbol that the importance of engaging the whole community is a core part of NHS England’s Patient and Public Voice vision.
In spite of the vastness of the place (the building is a former Manchester railway station) I found a cosy Dementia Cafe where people were huddled around Gill Phillip’s colourful and innovative Whose Shoes?®,board game. During Gill’s engaging session I was reminded of how a simple concept, authentically delivered can capture the attention of busy professionals who are prepared to take time to “Walk in the Shoes” of people living with dementia.
I remembered that one of my best moments working with Gill had been co-delivering the Whose Shoes?®, workshop in Malta. Alzheimer Europe demonstrated that where leaders are willing to engage people in co-production it is possible to overcome language, political and organisational barriers to achieve authentic engagement.
Amongst the busy crowds of people, I finally made it to a session chaired by Giles Wilmore where the Patient Leader Alison Cameron and the wonderful Liz Evans provided us with a thought provoking workshop – using the metaphor of a mountain to show how organisations can climb towards true coproduction and to highlight some of the realities of that process.
This triggered thoughts of my previous role with Think Local, Act Personal where I have been lucky enough to work with a group of warm, dynamic and supportive people who use services, patients, carers and families in the National Co-production Advisory Group. Many members of the former NCAG will have seen different health and care systems over several decades, tolerated and supported different engagement leads and will also have seen the cycle of change repeat itself more than once. I have always been conscious that, as paid professionals, we can move onto another role. However the people who use services and patients do not have a choice to walk away from their situation or condition.
The last seminar I attended, led by Alice Williams and Nasser Quhill from the NHS England Patient Engagement team, was an interactive workshop where the views of a range of people were being welcomed and actively listened to. The two concepts being explored – NHS England’s Participation Academy and “People Bank” could open up a range of opportunities for people who use services and patients to be involved in co-production, and where people can build on their skills. These were all very encouraging signs for someone like me, as I know I have very high expectations of what genuine engagement should look like.
During these first few days in my new role, I find myself testing the culture and working out what systems are working in favour of co-production? What feels comfortable? Which areas are grating against my values? And although it is early days for me, I am trying to piece together all my previous experiences so that I can build on the principles and values of co-production and practical ideas for implementation that I have refined throughout my career.
So the Dickens’s ghost of Christmas past helped me to gain a brief glimpse of a positive future where innovation is welcomed, and where people are actively listened to. It is early days for me in my new role, but I have to say that for the time being, I am excited about what the future holds!
Follow Shahana on Twitter @shahanaramsden