What a year! My ‘take’ on #MatExp: building a change platform – by accident!

Florence Wilcock had promised to write a blog summarising ‘a year in the life of MatExp’: the story, from her perspective, of the 12 months since we first met. She emailed it to me and I felt really emotional opening the email. #MatExp has been such a huge journey for both of us. I wondered what she would say. I published her wonderful blog  on the actual anniversary (31 July, 2014).

As I am always interested in looking at things from different perspectives, it was particularly fascinating reading a story so close to my heart and with which I have been so closely involved, but through another person’s eyes. What would it be like to revisit the year myself? Some of the events and stories are the same; much is different but complementary.  And it is fab to see others coming forward too and blogging about how we have all come together to build the #MatExp change platform, including Leigh Kendall.

Anyway, here is my story.
I have nicked Florence’s fab headings…

Setting the scene

It had been an exciting time. Whose Shoes?, which I first created in 2008 as a facilitation tool, was catching on in new ways and bringing new opportunities.  Having originally given up my job, jumped ship with a crazy notion, loads of passion, no funding or realistic plan, it had been a veritable rollercoaster. Without social media I would never have survived the long years of the recession where training budgets were slashed and everyone you built a relationship with moved on or moved out.

_DHP5895-Edit - WS DFC graphicsSocial media was proving to be a wonderful way to find like-minded people, passionate about improving people’s experience of health and social care and seeing everyone as whole people with preferences and aspirations, not just health needs. I had started working with passionate people to develop bespoke material around different topics, particularly Sandra Springett, Diane Aslett and some other forward-thinking people from Age UK in Kent. It was the dementia work with them, and experience of building #dementiachallengers as a powerful and enduring hashtag on Twitter that led directly to the maternity project with Florence.

I received an email signed by ‘Miss Florence Wilcock’. Flo and I have laughed about this since as I didn’t realise that it was standard practice for consultants to sign in this formal maiden namey way. I was expecting someone very prim and proper, but when we first spoke on the phone she sounded really animated and engaging. I laugh at the way Florence often says she is confused about things… I was confused.

I linked Flo up with Kath Evans, Patient Experience Lead at NHS England as I knew Kath was a keen Whose Shoes? champion. I was summoned for a meeting at NHS England HQ in London, with Tracy Parr and Sarah Dunsdon from the London Strategic Clinical Network (LSCN), and of course Florence.   I think other people were surprised when Flo and I had a big hug, even though we had never met in person before, but I am more used to tweet ups and for me this is normal when you know you are meeting someone special!

The introduction was very welcoming but then suddenly the atmosphere changed and felt far more formal as I was invited to ‘do my presentation’. Hmm, I hadn’t got a presentation in any formal sense of the word. I just got out the Whose Shoes? board game, and showed them briefly how it worked and what it aimed to achieve. I showed them some of the existing scenarios. The atmosphere was very much us (me!) and them at that point so it cheered me up no end when a couple of guys appeared, abseiling down the building cleaning the windows!

Luckily I had had the forethought to put together a few maternity specific scenarios. I had just printed them on coloured paper and pushed them round the table, inviting people to dive in and take a look. Tracy pounced on a particular scenario. I cannot remember what it was but a lively discussion ensued for about three minutes and I melted into the background, smiling to myself. Tracy suddenly looked a little embarrassed and apologised for ‘going off track’. Then the lightbulb moment. They had not gone off track; they had discovered and understood Whose Shoes? for themselves, something I cannot achieve through a conventional presentation. From that moment, we were all on the same page and the London pilot was born. A painless and natural birth.

August Plotting

Florence Wilcock wrote: "A very small pilot....!"

Florence Wilcock wrote:
“A very small pilot….!”

I remember leaving the meeting excited but wondering how it would all pan out. I had total confidence in Florence and was delighted that the first workshop was going to be at Kingston Hospital. For me it is all about finding the right partners. The backing from NHS England and SCN in London was going to be important but we needed to ensure that we involved women, a mix of people who had had a good and bad experience of maternity care, and avoided a top down approach!

I was aware that we didn’t have long to source the scenarios and the hard work that would be involved in making sure that they were all authentic and crowd-sourced. Although Florence was relatively new to social media, it was brilliant to find a partner who was willing to give it a go and, right from the beginning, we have bounced off each other and been able to stir up a lot of energy on Twitter!

Mum - new flat Img_5053cOn a personal front, I had my mum staying with me for several months after an accident meant she could no longer live alone in her own home;  I was helping her move, rebuild her life and eventually sell the family home and move into assisted living. The extra time together meant we had plenty of time to chat and one of Mum’s stories became Florence’s favourite scenario! August was also my eldest son’s wedding… so time for some posh shoes!

September Sourcing

Gill Phillips with Jane Pollock, a.k.a @midwife_jane who invited her along to the Open Day

Gill Phillips with Jane Pollock, a.k.a @midwife_jane who invited her along to the Open Day

Things got really busy in September and I was very lucky to get the chance to visit the maternity unit at George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton. Again, this was largely thanks to Twitter and I was given a very warm welcome by Jane Pollock and her colleagues. I got some really good insights into current maternity services and only wish that the birthing pools, low lighting and other personalised options had been around when I had my three children! Around this time I also met Carmel McCalmont for the first time, Head of Midwifery at Coventry University Hospital. I learnt a lot about their innovative postnatal work.

Laura Sinclair, a young friend of mine, had recently had her second baby and had a story to share. We were certainly not short of material for our crowd-sourced scenarios and also started to be bombarded by tweets and emails telling us what we should include! Some of the more in-depth scenarios lent themselves to Whose Shoes? poems, particularly Flo’s stream of consciousness email that she sent me in the middle of the night after a difficult ‘on call’ and Jenny Clarke gave permission for us to include a couple of her famous ‘Skin to Skin’ poems!

I started to use #MatExp as a hashtag and was thrilled when it began to gain momentum. I told Flo I had registered it on Symplur. She hadn’t got a clue what I was talking about but liked the idea!

October Lift Off

Img_8264aThe timing of the Kingston workshop was quite difficult for me as it fell immediately before a busy week in Glasgow, where I was speaking at the European Alzheimer’s conference, being interviewed for a local radio station and running two quite demanding Whose Shoes? workshops, including a large community event at Dundee United Football Club! It was interesting moving between such different subjects and yet seeing the similarities in terms of what really matters to people: dignity and respect, choice and control, good communication and being listened to are central to everything!

It was a bit nerve wracking wondering how many people we would have at the Kingston workshop – perhaps Florence’s nerves were contagious! But I knew the material that we had developed was authentic and fitted really well with the Whose Shoes? format, so felt very confident that the discussions themselves would be a success.

MatExp bakeoffI had been a bit frustrated that the NHS seemed to have an incredible eye for detail, in terms of templates and spreadsheets of attendees etc, but it was harder to pin down whether we could actually manage any refreshments! As so often, we were able to turn a potential problem into an opportunity and Florence and her team made some wonderful cakes – the start of the #MatExp bake-off, a lovely personal touch that has been continued in subsequent workshops and is now a key part of the package. My very last-minute approach to finalising slides for my presentation meant that I was able to include pictures of cakes people were baking -and tweeting – late the night before!

I travelled down from the Midlands with Anna, our fabulous graphic facilitator and Laura who was so keen to share her story that she made special arrangements to leave her young baby with her Mum – thank you Rosemary, a dear friend of mine!  I was very moved when Florence also shared her own personal birth stories – she hadn’t told me she was going to do this so I got the full impact when she announced at the end of her moving ‘tale of two births’ that the mother in question was herself. This honesty and sharing of vulnerability set the scene perfectly for the Whose Shoes? approach, emphasising that we are all people rather than fixed into boxes called ‘professional’ or ‘patient’. One of Flo’s junior doctors subsequently said it was like meeting the teacher out of school and realising that they actually have a personal life too!

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I am delighted to quote Florence here:

“The workshop was outstanding, better than in my wildest dreams and the connections and actions have been fizzing along ever since. I spent the days and weeks after the workshop bumping into people and hearing about the progress of their pledges”.

Flo set a very high standard in terms of ensuring that the workshops were action-focused. As time has gone on, this has led to a healthy competition between the participating hospitals to see who can show the biggest or most interesting improvements.

300- 2For my part, I got a real buzz when I first saw the graphic that Anna Geyer had produced ‘live’ during the Kingston workshop displayed on the stairs at Kingston Hospital – a constant reminder of the workshop and all the action that was (and still is!) flowing from it.

November Baton Passing

Kath Evans had been a fantastic catalyst in bringing the maternity work to fruition. Ever since she attended a Whose Shoes? event in Coventry in the summer of 2013, Kath had said that the approach would work brilliantly in maternity and children’s services. November saw me starting to get involved in a project Kath was doing with some fantastic partners including Great Ormond Street Hospital around improving communications between children and young people, their parents and healthcare professionals. This led to us agreeing to use Whose Shoes? as part of the whole-day ‘CYP Me First’ masterclass that was being developed.

It was good to see the cross-fertilisation of ideas between this and the maternity project. The networks were ever expanding. I love connecting people and it gives me a particular pleasure to see passionate people (my friends!) connecting across different topics, who would never normally come into contact with each other.

On the maternity front, the next workshop was Lewisham.

Booklet - MatExp WSI was impressed by the effort that went into developing the toolkit to try to capture leadership and facilitation tips to help this and subsequent workshops. We all chipped in but sometimes I am too ‘close’ to it; a combination of Flo’s clear vision and the LSCN team’s attention to detail meant that the final result was really impressive. I really enjoyed working with Helen Knower, Head of Midwifery, supported by Flo via Twitter and phone calls. It is lovely to see how different individuals put their own stamp on a session – and it was great!

A personal highlight for me happened before the Lewisham session even started. We had a very quick run through of the game for the people who were going to serve as facilitators on the day. Just as with the original ‘presentation’ at NHS England, it was easier to get them dipping into the game and exploring a couple of scenarios rather than just talking in theory. Lynda Machakaire, consultant midwife, announced at the end that I had changed her practice already. A card about language had made her think about certain aspects of how she spoke to women – a real light bulb moment and a lot of honesty. Tweeting as the @BestMidwifeEver, this was someone who was totally person-centred but recognised that there is always space to learn and improve. Florence has said the same: that learning from the discussions has influenced her day-to-day practice. Wow!

And a bit of virtual nagging from Florence kept everyone focused on action:

And the networking continued.

And the workshop is judged to be a success.

Meanwhile we were starting work on a webinar for the 6Cs series

December Momentum building 

It was wonderful to see Florence’s willingness to move outside her comfort zone and as ever our skills and personalities were mutually supportive. I loved the honesty with which Flo said she had never done things before, had a little panic and then got on and did them brilliantly! She is far more organised than me and would start planning something in really good time, whereas I am more last minute. This was just as well as the project started shooting off in all directions, with webinars, films and presentations to prepare, alongside the stuff we had already planned!

I was thrilled when we started planning a ‘train the facilitator’ event in the middle of the pilots. All the Heads of Midwifery (HOMs – I was learning a new language!) from across London were invited; this felt like a real vote of confidence in the workshops and their continuation beyond the initial pilots.

200- 2And then, just before Christmas, our third workshop took place, this time run by Flo’s fellow obstetrician Louise Page at West Middlesex.

Christmas babyI find it huge fun and very exciting to follow a Whose Shoes? event live on Twitter; I love seeing the photos and feeling the buzz. In keeping with the ‘devolved leadership’ strategy, neither Flo nor I got involved in running this event. We were like a pair of over-anxious mums at the school gates, watching with pride as our baby took its next tentative steps to independence. It was just before Christmas so it was a bit like rocking up for the school nativity play and having to watch it on the screen outside in the playground!

IMG_8235aKath Evans was brilliant and attended all the pilot workshops, participating rather than leading and so was able to observe and report on the success of each one. The LSCN team – Sarah, Daryl and Michaela – gave excellent project support and Anna Geyer similarly provided continuity and a growing collection of wonderful graphics recording the highlights and actions from each event.

I was fascinated to see how the ‘putting people in boxes’ sometimes self perpetuated. People were surprised to find out that it was an obstetrician rather than a midwife leading this rather ‘fluffy’ (a.k.a human) project. This went against the established stereotype: midwives are apparently seen as ‘fluffy’ people whereas obstetricians are branded as hard-nosed and lacking in  people skills. Similarly, someone was disappointed there were ‘no users’ on the core team… just before Michaela, a team member from LSCN, gave birth to our first #MatExp baby – but of course, working for the NHS, she was classed as a professional rather than a mum!

Florence told me one night she had quickly filled in a form and applied for #MatExp to be a campaign partner for NHSChangeday.

I was delighted. There was total trust between us with one or other of us flying off and doing  things and hopefully between us covering the key bases. ‘JFDI’ and ‘divide and conquer’ became our watchwords.

We wondered what the New Year would bring but we were pretty sure it would not be dull!

January New Year 

Things went up a gear as we entered the New Year. Due to the success of the early London pilots, there was talk about rolling out ‘Whose Shoes? -maternity’ across London and indeed nationally. While this was very exciting, it was also a bit worrying. Whose Shoes? is values-driven – it needs to engage hearts and minds. I do not want it ever to be dumped on someone’s desk from on high saying “This tool seems to work. You need to do it!” That kills anything, as I know from my own experience when, in a previous life, I was asked to “report on outcomes”, when nobody had a clue what this really meant but it was  all very fashionable!

Img_3473 Flo's pledgeFlo was wildly excited when we got the ‘green light’ from the NHS Change Day team saying that #MatExp had been chosen as a campaign partner. We both were.  I realised just how much it all meant to Flo and what I loved was that it has always been about spreading the word and improving things for women rather than any personal aggrandissement. Flo was building such a national profile but as a by-product rather than ever being a driver.

We were in constant touch, trying to keep the various plates spinning, and so it has been ever since. We discovered tips that are never mentioned in project management / leadership manuals – not least that if you have an owl (me) developing ideas late at night and a lark (Flo) adding some more and pinging them back at day-break, you get a hell of a lot done!

The NHS seem very keen on early-morning teleconferences. As you will have gathered, I am not an early morning person. We were planning the train that the facilitator session and finalising a toolkit capturing the formula in terms of how to lead a workshop – the practical elements and the more nebulous elements, such as how to create the right atmosphere.

I forgot about one completely but had been tweeting right through it (my early-morning activity of choice) so was ‘caught red handed!’. Kath Evans, who is probably the kindest and most positive person I know, found some lovely words to direct message me but was effectively saying “Gill are you going to do in this teleconference or what?” Whoops!

I was under pressure to come up with a business model. again it was a case of trying to ensure that there is real ownership in individual hospitals, and also a way to build for the future, adding on new subject areas as maternity is just one example of how the tool can be used. Serendipity is a huge part of my journey and some key people, including Kate Greenstock (@wildrubiescoach) came along at just the right time to help me think through my ideas. It has been wonderful to discover people like Kate who I hope will be able to spread the message and facilitate events on my behalf, as we have done in other areas, particularly #dementiachallengers.

The network was growing: different people using their different skills and passions. There was fantastic attention to detail by the SCN team and, jumping forward, this continues to be a strength as we head for NHS Expo where it probably feels to them like herding cats with a gang of mavericks coming up with more and more ideas and going off in different directions!

Personal actionsFlo and I attended an NHS Change Day planning day together and were probably slightly tricky for the team there as we had so much going on and it was such a rare opportunity to meet together in person. We also knew very clearly what we wanted and gave their website designers a few headaches with our long list of actions and different leaders (a fab mix of mum-leaders and professional leaders) for different bits of the #MatExp campaign! People were coming forward to lead different aspects of the campaign. Wonderful people like Jenny Clarke (Skin to Skin); Amanda Burleigh and Hannah Tizzard (Opimal Cord Clamping); Leigh Kendall (Language – teaching us all SO much via fantastic #HugosLegacy and #saytheirname); Emma Sasaru and Helen Calvert (breastfeeding); Ruth-Allen and Carolyn John (informed choice); Rosey and Dani (postnatal support). Too many to mention but you know who you are!

I have always loved the Cleveland Clinic empathy film so it was really exciting when the London SCN commissioned a similar film from Silverfish. It was fun choosing the scenarios to appear in the film, all sourced from our Whose Shoes? workshops. Again, Florence and I felt as if we were being picky, coming back with loads of suggestions and edits. These things are really difficult in terms of appealing to everyone, but I think we are all delighted with the final result and positive feedback the film has received, with over 3000 views already.

It is a great resource and is being shown at maternity conferences everywhere; I felt very emotional when I saw it for the first time on a big screen at our workshop in Guernsey.

Work was of course continuing in other areas and sometimes it is hard to juggle the different subject areas, especially as I invest so much time in supporting people on social media. I love it when things do not fit into boxes and building links across my various networks is very rewarding. We have had a few gatherings in London where the main thing people have in common is that they are part of ‘my gang’ and I love seeing them build their own friendships and alliances.


Passionate dementia care team in Basildon

Immediately after the NHS Change Day meeting with Florence, I went on to meet the fab dementia care team at Basildon & Thurrock Hospital. I was very happy to distribute NHS change day light bulbs, and spread the word of the ‘Dementia Do’ campaign which builds on our NHS change day campaign from 2014.

Img_2283c - thought diversity posterFlo and I were also pleased to take part in the NHS Thought Diversity day in London. This has gone a bit quiet recently but the key idea seemed to be that it really adds value to look at issues from lots of different perspectives. We would agree !! 🙂

Another new experience for me was to be a judge in the Penna awards. It is heartening to see the fantastic work that has been done across the country to improve patient experience.

Fabulous February

The first week in February was indeed mad. I managed to stay for most of the week with Theresa, my best friend from school days. She has known me since I was 11, so perhaps it is just as well she is not on social media as she might have a few beans to spill! This meant that not only did we have the ‘Train the Facilitator’ and the Queens hospital workshop in one week, but I managed to fill every moment in between with meetings, either of a ‘business’ or social nature – or in practice there is often very little to divide the two.

This week was very special. I met for the first time three of the leading lights from our campaign. Flo and I got the chance to spend time with the inimitable ‘Jenny the Midwife’ @JennytheM, famed for her wonderful campaign to make ‘Skin to Skin’ a reality for every mother at every birth. You had to be there to appreciate the ‘tale of the heated loo seats’. I had dreamed of meeting the woman who once climbed a step ladder and daubed ‘Skin to Skin’ in large letters on the operating theatre wall, because no one was listening. See what I mean about special people?

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Jenny had come down from Blackpool for our ‘Train the Facilitator’ event and similarly Helen Calvert @heartmummy, had come from Manchester. Leigh Kendall and Dr Carolyn John joined us for the event at Queens hospital and I felt very honoured that our amazing team were making such an effort to come and see what was happening in person.

The Queens Romford workshop was part of our ‘devolved leadership’ approach, so strictly speaking neither Flo nor I were meant to be there. But we both found an excuse to come anyway, and got the chance to see Wendy Matthews lead a brilliant event. It was jam packed – apparently 69 people turned up for the 40 places. Because I did not have an official role, it was an opportunity to run round with my small video camera, capturing some of the highlights of the day, as did a couple of members of their very responsive Comms team. Poor Mr #WhoseShoes was subsequently trying to help when he edited the film and cut out all the background noise; but then we had to put it back in…  after all babies are really what these events are all about!

Flo and I shot our video for NHS Change Day in the noisy corridor at the end of a long afternoon: not the best quality, time or place but we just had to… JFDI!

People often say ‘let’s meet up when you’re next in London’. It was fun hopping between meetings to progress specific projects such as #KHFTWhoseShoes and #CYPMeFirst and more general ‘tweet-up’ type meetings such as finally spending some time with Richard Humphries from the Kings Fund and meeting up with a PhD researcher from UCL, whom I first met at the ADI World Alzheimer’s conference in Puerto Rico!

If you want a break from reading this ‘War and Peace’ blog, I hope you enjoy this beautiful and indeed haunting music by the local university students – a truly memorable introduction to a conference!

I went to Preston to join ‘NHS Change Day, North’. Paul Jebb was rather rash to sit next to me that day as I was looking for early pledges to undertake the lithotomy challenge – thank you Paul 😉

The next day I went down to Skipton House in London and got the chance of my ’15 minutes of fame’ when I was suddenly invited to speak on camera to NHS CEO, Simon Stevens. With some very helpful last minute advice “Less is more” from my friend Alison Cameron burning in my ear, I stepped forward.

As anyone following #MatExp will know, language is possibly the most consistent issue that we are picking up in our campaign. Simon Stevens seemed to be listening, really listening so I was keen to give him a real example. There was momentarily a stony silence as I asked him how he would feel if he was told that he had “failed to dilate”. Luckily, he laughed and said that for a start it would be a gynaecological miracle and the ice was broken. But it is such an important message that I hope he remembers it. In a good way, of course. 😉 Interestingly, the footage seems to have disappeared without trace…

Gill and Simon Stevens and card

There is huge potential to explore the use of Whose Shoes? in more specialist areas and I’m hoping that this might be one of the outcomes of the national maternity review. For example, I had the huge privilege of taking part in a focus group of young mothers with learning disabilities. I was shocked by some of the things that I heard – but I guess if we are finding so many gaps in communication generally, it is hardly surprising to hear of more vulnerable people being left bewildered and unsupported – and worse.

Twitter NHSMeanwhile I was spending a disproportionate amount of time preparing for to give a talk about blogging at the Twitter NHS conference. I do find it hard juggling accepting we get requests and suchlike well into the future and The reality delivering them when the time comes alongside pressing work priorities. It was the day before our webinar for 6Cs. Florence has described it in her blog – chaotic, crowd sourced and huge fun! I also was delighted to publish Flo’s “first and only blog” – or so she claimed loudly at the time…

ROAR bookAnd talking of publishing things, ‘our’ book was published – Roar…compassion   It had been a huge surprise when Sheena Byrom originally invited me to write in chapter, one of the original contributors, long before I had done any work around maternity services. The publications have been delayed as more and more people were discovered and added and now it felt extremely timely! I was delighted to be included alongside about 40 international examples of good practice. It has sold 3000 copies and is now being re-printed.

March Mayhem

I had been looking forward hugely to NHS Change Day. I had promised ages ago, that whatever happened, I would come and support Florence with activities at Kingston Hospital. I knew we would do something around #MatExp but wasn’t sure what. As it happened, Kingston hospital were doing loads of good stuff, so much so that we were delighted to hear that Helen Bevan, the Edge and the NHS change day film crew had chosen ‘us’ to visit!

I thought they would perhaps pop into our drop-in session in the antenatal clinic in the afternoon. I hadn’t expected them to arrive en masse for our whose shoes taster session for the whole of the Executive team! They caught the end of the discussions, using some bespoke Whose Shoes? scenarios to explore a real complaint. I was thrilled as Helen had always said she wanted to see the game in action, but we had only managed ‘near misses’. This time she at least saw the ‘aftermath’ as the team discussed what they had experienced – an opportunity which led directly to the exciting project we are doing at the moment, using Whose Shoes? to explore areas of patient and staff experience across the hospital: #KHFTWhoseShoes.

Helen Bevan did a little interview with me in the antenatal clinic – the only clip that has been published is five seconds (at seven minutes 30) on this excellent video, about the whole day, and of course starring Florence doing her lithotomy challenge.

What a great idea! We have since had a steady stream of tweets sending photos of health care professionals, and particularly male obstetricians, experiencing the lithotomy position and suggesting ways in which issues can be avoided or at least improved.

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It was brilliant that Flo was not only willing to do the lithotomy challenge, but to be filmed and then to share the learning via a blog. Yes, that’s right, another blog. 😉 We published it on Mothers’ Day and I was able to include a photo of the lovely #MatExp necklace Florence had sent me.

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MatExp necklace cShe had bought us matching ones and we have enjoyed wearing them to events ever since, especially when we do something together! I have found a great conversation starter at non-maternity events, and I wore in Scotland when I went up there for a week, giving talks at the fabulous ‘We chose to climb’ international conference and then workshop with NHS Education for Scotland and Alzheimer Scotland.

Shoe on wall - RCOGFlorence and I were bouncing off each other more and more. It was brilliant that Flo had an excellent meeting with David Richmond, president of the RCOG. When we started writing these blogs, I asked her to remind me how this came about. Apparently I had emailed and got a lovely reply from Lesley Page, president of the RCM, so Flo had a rush of blood to the head (her words) and emailed ‘her’ president. I laughed when she tweeted a picture of one of my little clock keyrings on the wall outside the prestigious premises!

CYP Img_4680AMeanwhile the Great Ormond Street #CYPExp masterclasses, using Whose Shoes?,  had started and were coming thick and fast. I went to the final pilot workshop and it was lovely to see Kath Evans there, just as supportive and enthusiastic as ever.

It seemed slightly strange having one final pilot maternity workshop at the Whittington, as by this stage the project had  been deemed a success and we had already held the ‘train the facilitators’ event.  Flo and I behaved ourselves this time and waited patiently outside the school gates, but checked in constantly on Twitter. Once again there was very positive feedback and lots of actions – and I particularly loved seeing the black cat on Anna Geyer’s wonderful graphic.

200- 2It was great to see stronger and stronger links forming with the NCT, MSLCs and other groups around the country as people gained confidence in working collaboratively and as we all realised that we are stronger together; #WhoseShoes by definition includes everyone. I know how impressed Flo was by the presentation Helen Gray gave at the mini Whose Shoes? at the South West London Maternity study day and we were starting to get tweets mentioning #MatExp at conferences at home and abroad!


With the pilots over, we entered April without any particular plan but her created the conditions for a bit of magic to happen, as organic development is what it is all about! Florence asked me what I thought about a #MatExp alphabet. It was brilliantly simple – just the sort of thing that I love and neither of us could believe the energy it generated. People were waking early to post their daily tweets. Mr #WhoseShoes sometimes struggles with my social media presence and thought we had all lost the plot at that stage I think.

I had a really random day myself when I met up with some fab people from the Netherlands at the big Quality and Safety forum at Excel in London. As I was not actually a conference delegate, and the conference costs a fortune to attend, we met in the main entrance. We ‘kind of’ after permission to demonstrate the board game on the counter of the cloakroom. The four of us were gathered on one side as apparently it was overstepping the much to stand on the cloakroom side! I am hoping to get involved in the first Change Day, Netherlands and link them up to the work that we are doing at Kingston Hospital – we’ll see.

I bumped into a couple of people who assumed I was presenting there and it felt a bit flat to have to walk away. We are hoping to get opportunities to present at conferences like this about #MatExp but we are not sure if they are quite ready for us yet. You have to submit abstracts about nine months in advance – our whole project is only a year old now, so we cannot really get their heads around this kind of time frame! 😉

I had to rush off to Kingston Hospital to meet Florence, Sarah Dunsdon and Rupa Chilvers from Better Births. On our ‘divide and conquer’ principle, I had initially said to Flo to go ahead without me, but got the opportunity by combining this with calling into Excel and thus justifying yet another trip to London. It was just as well I did as this turned into a fantastic opportunity to make a film about the  whole #MatExp project. We had done no planning at all so simply rattled away to the camera, remembering key things as we went along, but not necessarily in the right order! Rupa was skilled enough to add some photos and other bits to bring the video alive and it is proving a useful resource.

As I say, I love it when different aspects of my work blend together. My raison d’être is around breaking down barriers, silos and generally de-labelling things, so finding ways to straddle my maternity and dementia work feels exciting. Very often this happens through serendipity. For example, Mel Pickup and I were both speakers at the Dementia Quality of Care event in Manchester; this led to me picking up (excuse the pun!) on the excellent work Mel and her colleagues were doing in Warrington, me inviting Mel to write an ‘in my shoes’ blog (featuring twiddle muffs!), and then finding out that Mel was a member of the new maternity review team! This gave an opportunity for Mel to learn more about what we had been doing around #MatExp and become interested: we are planning a workshop later in the year.

Meanwhile Flo and I were very excited to get the green light to use the Whose Shoes? approach to explore patient and staff experience in other areas of Kingston Hospital. I now spend quite a lot of time at the hospital and also interview people over the phone and use a wide range of other source material to co-produce challenging scenarios. I really enjoy new development work and Florence and her fab P.A. ‘Virtual Kate’ have done an excellent job producing a monthly newsletter Whose News? to raise awareness. #KHFTWhoseShoes is our new hashtag and another fascinating journey is underway!

It is also rewarding to be able to bring new ideas into the hospital – for example I was privileged to be invited to the two day HSJ Innovation Summit in Marlow – the networking and learning were amazing. This had the spin off benefit that I was able to meet up with  Marcia, my old line manager in an earlier life when I was employed, who became a dear friend. It was Marcia who encouraged me back to work after long-term, serious  sickness when I had lost a lot of confidence and things were difficult. It is so important to take the opportunity to tell people what a difference they have made to our lives.

May, What’s next?

MatExp logo 2 - text down side - KenWe were all enjoying the #Matexp alphabet and it was brilliant when my friend Ken Howard spontaneously designed a logo for us. It has proved hugely popular and is now being displayed on our website – look out for our jaunty T-shirts at NHS Expo!

Ken, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s nearly 10 years ago, has met a number of my #MatExp friends, including Leigh Kendall, when they were both included in the top 50 HSJ Patient Leaders – but that is jumping ahead because it didn’t happen until July. As you may know, I am not one for very tight structure, so we needn’t stress about it.  More importantly we were suddenly embarking upon a month of action, with people tweeting selfies of what they were pledging to do, Leigh designing our own #MatExp website and Helen Calvert, Susanne Remic and Emma Sasaru setting up a #MatExp Facebook group! Everyone was pulling together and making things happen!
I remember going for a walk in the woods and reflecting on our amazing collaborative journey: https://steller.co/s/4Rt9Ar5vvPG


FlamingJuneIt was ironic that Flo had chosen #FlamingJune as the theme for our month of action. Weather wise, June was anything but flaming – but the #MatExp community was on fire. We launched the JFDI website matexp.org.uk that Leigh Kendall put together in no time at all and soon it was being crowd sourced with links and blogs. It was lovely to see the colourful selfies being posted and the wide range of actions that people were taking. The Facebook group got 700 members in the first couple of weeks I think, and has hosted really in-depth discussions. This takes a lot of time welcoming new members, posting and encouraging discussions, being diplomatic and encouraging – and lots of other things I do not understand so well about Facebook 😉 Huge thanks to Emma, Susanne and Helen for building this in such an energetic and whole-hearted way. We need to find a way of feeding in the learning from these experience-based exchanges into the National Maternity Review.

I was really sorry to miss the big event in London on 10 June, with somebody speaking from each of the five London pilots and describing what had been achieved so far. It sounded like a lovely mix of collaboration and healthy competition as each person reported on all the actions that had taken place and plans to build further. The #MatExp empathy film was finally launched.

Meanwhile, I had a busy month too. I was very honoured to be asked to give a talk at the NHS Confederation in Liverpool. As you will see from my Steller story, I really love the place. I now have an interesting conversation building with maternity providers in the Merseyside area, so perhaps I will get the opportunity to go back soon.

NHS Expo 2014 give me a really good opportunity  to be able to think on my feet and run a workshop pretty much anywhere – I will never forget the fun we had trying to run a workshop in the Dementia Cafe in the middle of Expo, with wild activity going on all around, including NHS Change Day people marching up and down with banners. And so, when Flo was in a bit of a flap about changing plans around our #KHFTWhoseShoes workshop at Kingston Open Day, I was able to calm her. I quite liked the idea of a drop-in session session opposite the do-it-yourself keyhole surgery stand! I was als enjoying making Steller stories so made another one.

It was a lovely informal way of meeting a lot of people from across the hospital and we were made very welcome, not least by Kate Grimes the CEO who is incredibly supportive of the work we are doing. I’m not quite sure how Flo and I managed to sneak off for long enough to make this video with Yvonne Newbold and her lovely Dad Maurice Trimmer, talking about our session.

At the end of the month, I flew out to Guernsey and really enjoyed mixing work and play (there are no real boundaries for me!) meeting the fab maternity team and running our first maternity workshop outside London. Another Steller story! The word was spreading. We were starting to receive enquiries to run workshops at other Trusts up and down the country.

Just Do it July

I had planned my trip to Guernsey in time to get back for the wonderful ‘Caring for the carers’ event organised by Jane Pollock @midwife_jane at George Eliot hospital. I couldn’t believe that it was my first ever maternity conference and was excited to be meeting many #MatExp stars, but particularly (at last!) Sheena Byrom. There were excellent presentations including one by Jacque Gerard where I learnt about the ‘undermining toolkit’, produced jointly by the RCM and RCOG and sadly very relevant to our work in #MatExp, #KHFTWhoseShoes and beyond. It was only a small (and for me local) event, but with a lineup worthy of a major conference – a tribute to the power of Twitter to bring movers and shakers together for positive change. It felt like a #MatExp tweet up!

It had been about a year since I first met Jane when I visited the maternity open day at George Eliot hospital and won a trip to Twycross Zoo for naming the kangaroo mascot! I enjoyed my subsequent visit to the zoo and I think five-year-old Charlie enjoyed it even more!

Name badges - STOPI was so busy meeting the #MatExp crowd in person that I missed my SHCR ‘certificated radical’ virtual graduation – but luckily my youngest son was to have a real graduation ceremony later in the month! The next day I was ‘back at the school gates’ following the fantastic tweets coming from the workshop at Saint Thomas’s hospital in London. They were using the leadership toolkit produced by the London SCN, but putting their own little touches to it. I particularly loved the sign they put outside telling people to leave their NHS badges at the door. The principle of having inclusive badges – names rather than roles – has always been a feature of Whose Shoes? but we have never had a ‘Stop’ sign before!

And so we were coming to the end of our first #MatExp year and, remembering the origins of this incredible project, it seemed fitting to re-visit amazing places making a real difference to people living with dementia – and so I ran a workshop with Simona Florio and the Healthy Living club in Lambeth and then with Sandra Springett, Age UK, Tunbridge Wells – work in Kent had directly led to the maternity project.

Our second topic for #KHFTWhoseShoes is around life in theatres. Developing this new material has been fascinating . I got to wear scrubs for the first time, touring the Kingston operating theatres with Flo as we involve more areas of the Hospital.

We had been waiting to see how our rather maverick #MatExp campaign would fit alongside, or preferably working closely with, the more formal National Maternity Review. We were therefore delighted when members of our core team were invited to the National Birth Tank listening event in London. It was a really informative and enjoyable day, with so many fantastic passionate people in one room. It felt as if we made an impact – I was interviewed about #MatExp for a video they are making. Meanwhile Florence was incredibly proactive (posh word for JFDI because it was a posh event) setting up the Whose Shoes? board game in an alcove and showing anyone who was interested! I returned from my interview to find her demonstrating it briefly to Baroness Cumberlege…

And now the Maternity Review team are using Whose Shoes? in their listening events across the country! It was a mad rush to get everything ready for the first ‘listening event’ in Preston and rumour has it that the Review team were playing the board game on the train to get their heads around it 😉

What next?

It has taken me a month longer than Flo to write this blog and August has continued to be busy. Luckily one of the first ‘listening events’ was in Birmingham so I got the chance to show the Maternity Review Team the tool in action and Baroness Cumberlege even joined us! I met lovely Emma for the first time and one or two other #MatExp stars. We were very honoured indeed to be featured in Baroness Cumberlege’s blog.

But the big #MatExp tweet up comes on Wednesday as ‘#MatExp goes to Expo!’ Flo and I will travel up together from London to Manchester, after the launch of #KHFTWhoseShoes ‘Theatres’ tomorrow! We might be a bit hyper.

Bazaar - Helen BevanWe had some very ambitious ideas for a #MatExp bazaar at Expo (symbolic of a chaotic but energetic change platform, A powerful analogy coined by Helen Bevan.). We are very honoured to be invited and have the chance to spread the word although the format is a lot more ‘conventional’ then we had hoped. It will be a bit of a bizarre bazaar with everyone sitting in rows. We are also in the early stages of planning our very own conference, with a venue already offered… and Twitter running through it like a stick of rock 😉 Watch this space!

Heart values#MatExp ideas come thick and fast. A reverse ABC. A #MatExp Colouring book. Heat values. Room 101 for out of date practice we want to get rid off. Possibly a variation on the “purpose obfuscation ‘ometer” we spotted on Twitter??

And more workshops in North Cumbria, Warringon, Chelsea & Westminster, South East London maternity Network, Kent and more. We are talking about writing a book; I think I have written half of it here!

#MatExp is truly crowd-sourced and the momentum is building. Look out for the evaluation that has been commissioned by the NHS Change Day team and should be available in the next couple of months. We are so grateful to all the wonderful people who have stepped forward to make #MatExp happen, driven only by a real desire to improve maternity experience for women everywhere. Flo summed it up perfectly. We are “indebted to anyone who has participated, shaped, taken action or had a conversation however big or small. You are all the reason this has been such a successful year and with your ongoing input and action we can make a difference, make a change and make others believe that it’s possible too. THANK YOU”.

There are SO many people doing fantastic work, I know I haven’t mentioned everyone. It has turned into a bit of a personal reflection – something for my ‘memory bank’ 🙂
Please let me know any key omissions and I will add them in.

AND it would be brilliant if others wish to come forward and write a blog:

When did you become aware of #MatExp, how have you been involved and what difference has it made?

Meanwhile, we hope to see lots of you at NHS Expo!

About Gill Phillips - Whose Shoes?

Passionate about personalisation in health & social care. Creator of Whose Shoes? - an imaginative approach to helping people work together to improve lives. http://nutshellcomms.co.uk
This entry was posted in Blogs, community engagement, maternity, personalisation, social media, well-being and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What a year! My ‘take’ on #MatExp: building a change platform – by accident!

  1. Pingback: #MatExp – proving that you don’t have to ‘ask for permission’ to make change | Whose Shoes? A catalyst for change in health and social care

  2. Pingback: In the shoes of Victoria Morgan… | Reflecting on #MatExp and the impact it is having | Whose Shoes? A catalyst for change in health and social care

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