Thursday, 2 July 2015

Buurtzorg...if not not when?

I wanted to share with you my blog on transforming health and social care. I wrote it after attending a superb session learning more about Buurtzorg form the man who enabled it Jos de Block. Well worth looking into not just for transformation in the health arena but in so many public services. Making the person. and the community at its centre. A full report and the podcasts links will be available shortly. Until then get planning folks! It can be done.....

Monday, 29 June 2015

A love story..

                                                                " When its over, i want to say: all my life
                                                     I was a bride married to amazement
                                           I was a bridegroom, taking the world into my arms" Mary Oliver
When I was a wee girl all I wanted to do was to live in Edinburgh when grew up. I lived in Fife then and we would take the train for important back to school shopping trips or Christmas and the like. The excitement  would start as we crossed the wonderful forth rail bridge and I would know as the we chugged past the castle into Waverley station that city life was for me....but only this city. Now even as an Edinburgher when I walk out of the station and see the castle and the gardens I get a thrill of calling Edinburgh my home.
But nothing could have prepared me for the absolute joy of seeing my son get married to a wonderful woman on Saturday in the city chambers and then walk through this marvellous city followed by three women fiddlers ( one carrying a baby). The mother of the bride was also playing guitar and was followed by the three bridesmaids stunningly strutting their stuff in gorgeous dresses and hot pink stilettos! Cobbles were no barrier to them! Hundreds of tourist witnessed something magical and every face we passed lit up with the evident joy on the faces of the bride and groom. What better back drop than the royal mile to set off from, our city provided a stunning backdrop to this marvelous display of modern Scotland at its best. That walk symbolised for me the whole wedding day and their relationship too, it was full of love, joy, music and so much laughter. To say I shed a tear would be a slight understatement and currently I have no voice! Every union should carry such love and joy.
I gave a mother of the bridegroom speech ( it was a hugely inclusive wedding) and touched on this being one of the days I prayed for when I was first diagnosed with breast cancer when my children were still young. I prayed I would still be there to see them marry someone who loved them, that day came on Saturday and it surpassed all my hopes. I couldn't be more grateful to have been part of such a wonderful day.
 Last week  I was nominated for selection to stand as an MSP in Edinburgh Central, representing the very streets we walked through and the people we walked by on this special day. This deepened my sense of honour at the opportunity to give something back to this wonderful city that is my home. And also I know my life experience has taught me to grab any opportunity in life to make difference. I have been so very fortunate in my life, I want those opportunities for everyone.  
So , confetti gone, heels firmly packed away, attention now back to being selected to represent the guid folk of Edinburgh. Sleeves are rolled up!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Compassion is the new radicalism

I recently wrote this think piece on the workplace of tomorrow 
to stimulate discussion and ultimately action around the transformation
of health and social care. I would love to hear your responses 
and own ideas of what the next steps might be to move to onwards
a future where people really matter in the system.
I used the quote from the Dalia Lama, "compassion is the new radicalism" 
in the title of this blog.
 It's not that I believe it's only compassion we need for the 
transformation to health and wellbeing in our culture and health and 
social care service but without it we will not achieve the difference we seek.
Compassion for ourselves and others will provide the context for reform 
and the wellbeing of our organisations. 
What do you think are the bold steps we need to take to think big, 
act small and that we can start now?  

Friday, 29 May 2015

It's in our DNA...Caring Connections

A poem by Wendy a Caring Connections Coach

What is it like to be a caring connections coach?
It’s about caring and sharing a new approach
Learning from others in a creative way
Drawing and poetry brightened my day
Skills and techniques
To enable us to care
About ourselves and others
Laying our souls bare
We connect in a human way
What matters to me? What keeps me well?
Family nature and love,
Having purpose and goals
Flying free like a dove
We check in, we laugh
Sometimes we cry.
We show compassion
We’re human and authentic that’s why

We listen, we practice
We listen louder
We notice, we feel
Audrey's getting prouder
We're mindful, we’re compassionate
It’s nothing new
But its powerful, it’s transforming
Both me and you
It's only the beginning
As we start to grow
Where will this journey take us?
What seeds will we sow?
Compassion and kindness are in our DNA
Like blue eyes, freckles or even a quiff
Through conversation and coaching 
What worked well and even better IF 
The possibilities are endless
We simply have to share
This privileged approach
The essence of person centred care

Wendy O’Ryan    June 2015.
Thank you ♥ Carol, Jennifer, Alison, Anne, Comfort, Duncan, Victoria, Carol-Anne, Cath, Yennie, Anne, Anna, Kathryn, Karen, Audrey, Viv, Maggie

Transforming care

I started to work independently just over two years ago now. It was a big step but fuelled by my intention to focus my work on the potential for transformational change. Witnessing those transformations in both individuals and organisations is deeply satisfying work. 
One such experience has been working with Argyll and Bute supporting the development of an integrated and person centred network called Caring Connections. A key success factor in the network is developing a group of person centred coaches aimed at supporting change and transformation of care. I have been commissioned to shape the eight week course based on learning from the Esther network in Sweden and other relevant work but also make it appropriate to the Scottish context. In particular the course is shaped to develop the conditions and skills which enable the right conditions for person centred care and the integration of health and social care services.
Consequently we recruit future coaches from across health and social care and third sector. Their backgrounds range from care assistants to nurse consultants and managers in all services. This development is not about hierarchy, it's about having passion and commitment to improving services and a willingness to build awareness of the self and others. And so the course builds knowledge of the context and need for change, working through change and transition, it develops an understanding of continuous improvement. It builds understanding of how to achieve the ambitions of the health and wellbeing outcomes including working with communities, developing yourself and others, understanding wellbeing and transformational change, alongside the core skills of coaching to enable them to enact their learning. But perhaps the main outcome is, as one of the coaches framed it, is the embedding of person-centredness into the DNA of the participants. 
Mindfulness meditation is a core practice too, enabling resilience and building awareness. The group itself is a peer resource which shares learning and experience and builds a support network. From the first weeks people start to use their new skills and see the difference they are able to make just by bringing a fresh approach, a deeper listening, and a greater sense of empowerment. Each session starts with a check-in which in turn builds the group, sharing learning as well as any fears or challenges. Developing a peer approach to support like this is particularly valuable in times of change and transition.The cross sector working too deepens empathy with other sectors and builds interaction. There is a focus on honest feedback throughout using a "what works well and even better if" tool which builds an authentic culture which increases the ability to be sure footed and resilient in times of change.
The highlights for me are when I see the light bulbs come on for people.  Of course this happens at different times for people but what consistently emerges is people who look more confident, less stressed, more engaged with the passion for their work and with a network to support them to continue. We use a combination of learning methods with a strong focus on practicing coaching skills and utilising the wisdom within the group and supporting them to share their learning with others. Throughout the course people develop, shape and implement change projects. These have ranged from introducing a new way to admit people into a ward to changing how a team work together. Our focus is on what's learned from that to apply it to other situations and also to embed a culture of improvement. 
Of course I'm a learner too. I have learned that you don't need to be the most senior person to be an effective person centred coach and indeed change agent,  in fact sometimes professional boundaries can get in the way of that. I have learned that it is key to have a plan for the expected outcomes but be flexible in how we achieve them, working with the live issues in the group too. It's has been reinforced for me that people not only need mindfulness to help them be resilient but also the connection to others. And also the chance to laugh and even to cry when we need to. 
I have been so inspired by the willingness to learn and develop and especially by the commitment of all of the coaches to a person centred service. I have mostly learned that the people who need the services are in good hands and we need to give them the trust and support to deliver their best for others. 

Thursday, 14 May 2015

No man is an island-my afternoon with Contact the Elderly

My first quiet Sunday for sometime I found myself heading off to a Contact tea organised by Contact the Elderly. I wasn't sure what to expect as the invite came following a blog I had written on loneliness. Why not come along to one of our teas and see what we do, they asked and so I did.
The venue was at Aegon who were hosting this event and several staff members were there to act as hosts, as well as two children who greeted us all very cheerfully. There was a quiet hum of conversation as people arrived which got steadily louder as people took their seats. The room of round tables and beautiful white table cloths ( mm very posh was the comment) was bright with sun and looked over to trees in bloom; a lovely setting for a blustery Sunday in May. The tables were loaded with neatly cut sandwiches and beautiful cakes to enjoy. I can't eat wheat and hadn't made that known so it was my lot to admire and envy.
But really it wasn't about the food at all. The two men in the room were well outnumbered by the gathering of women, in their Sunday best. They came from all over Edinburgh and surrounding areas. Each came with a volunteer driver who stayed for tea as well;a door to door service with a promise of conversation and cakes but perhaps most of all connection.

All of them lived alone but came together once a month to fill the loneliness of a long Sunday afternoon. Indeed several of the guests mentioned how lonely a Sunday can be.
I had a sense of new and important friendships formed over time but also of difficult experiences shared, in a form of peer support too. One conversation I was part of was about the sense of loss experienced when they had moved from their old home. For one woman it was within the same town but for another it was relocating from a very different part of Scotland. Is it due to leaving behind a family home or adjusting to less space or more than that, I wondered if at its core it was about a loss of control over their lives. They shared the fear of hurting their families who were being kind and so the losses were left unspoken. I ventured that I would want to know of my own Mum's feelings and encouraged them to open up the conversations at home. But perhaps they are wiser than me and know that some conversations just can't be had. That sometimes the truth needs a hiding place or a safer place to share, which is just what this Sunday afternoon offered.
At first those I spoke to seemed to be of a very similar hue. Comfortable, well dressed, with families to advocate but I noticed as I went round the room the diversity was wider. Miners wives, former nurses and mothers of doctors all represented and all linked in their need for the company of others. I noticed they recalled often their first response was to resist the invite.  
"Thats no for me" the go to position. But gentle persuasion and offers just to give it a go convinced them differently in time. Recruitment was as varied as a phone call after reading a Daily Mail column and including family referrals as well as a dial-a-bus chat. Indeed dial-a-bus is clearly a recruiting ground for many things- with one lady attempting to recruit votes for her party at the recent election!
I wondered if I would find it poignant to be with this group as my concern for my own Mum grows. And I admit to deep sadness as I spoke to one woman with dementia whose condition was isolating her from others. But mostly I felt honoured to be with such a fine group of people ( the volunteers of course as well) and loved sharing some stories of older times. The ex-nurse and I recalled a time when our patients lived in tenements with shared toilets on each landing of a stair and not a bath in sight. They've gone now in the main and so have the times when poor mothers used ex sauce bottled as feeders for babies. Perhaps it does no harm to realise how far we have come and to value that. The NHS in particular was mentioned, this is a generation that knew what it was to need care and not be able afford it. A generation who know what it is to fight for values be it at war or in the picket line as one miners wife had. Mostly I didn't know ages of the guests but learned the oldest there that day was 101years old and another lady told me she was 99. How much we can learn from their resilience and wisdom.
You will hear through this blog that not only was their Sunday transformed but frankly so was mine. I loved speaking to them and know I will volunteer as a driver in the future as there is a waiting list and it seems a small way to be able to help. You can also host an afternoon tea which I admit Im not sure my house could cope with, not least with a cake stealing lurcher on the loose.
But if I could get some friends involved I'm sure we could be creative in offering a tea. Because it’s not just the older people who benefit from contact, truly,  we all do. And if you throw in egg sandwiches and chocolate brownies ( the declared favourites this Sunday) whats not to like?
I'm already looking forward to going back again.....thanks for the invitation; it's a connection I will value.
For more details on how to get involved or to suggest someone who might benefit have a look at the Contact the Elderly website and remember you can transform a life.and your own.

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

The ballot box

I wrote this following a visit to an exhibition on in the Fruitmarket Gallery In Edinburgh.  It was a visit with my creative writing group to an exhibition of  Brazilian Art. The piece that impacted on me was 10 cut down black ballot boxes that held up the mirror to the lack of democracy in Brazil at that time; the artist as Antonio Dias and the date 1968.
I found myself drawn to them, me the political anorak, staring at the empty ballot boxes and living through a time of shifting political sands here in Scotland and across the UK. The reminder that democracy is precious and that those who do not vote, have no voice and remain unheard. My  hope is these changing times will result in electoral reform to reduce our democratic deficit in the UK and also create a new cultural of more collaborative politics, more responsive to the people. But to do that first we have to vote......

The Ballot Box

They are ten
Unopened, unheard
Their presence unsettling
Isolated connected
Black, open mouthed
They stand
In silence
Shouting quietly
Look at me

Those voices unheard
Those votes uncast
Present in those
Ten black cubes
Of lost opportunity
But in that silence
There is power
A cold black anger
And we
Are dared to listen

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Reflections on Windsor

St Georges Chapel Windsor

I always approach my annual trips to Windsor with great anticipation. An event to lift the grey of January, a time to have the space to think about how life is evolving and what that means for me as a leader who works with leaders too. As the taxi from the airport drops me off and I show my passport to the police at the gate the sense of something special about to happen engulfs me.
As an old timer it's also time with friends to deepen connection, to laugh, to reflect. The ancient setting of course creates a connection through time to something beyond ourselves and adds to the stimulus of thinking and expression. A trip to Evensong enhances that sense of long standing traditions and rhythms of a world so different to my own. As a Scot perhaps I feel it stronger-it doesn't feel like my history-and that in turn stimulates a different understanding, an exotic twist on a remarkable opportunity to learn.
What I have noticed over the years that I learn as much from the discussions I don't agree with as the ones I do. Perhaps I spend too much time with people who think similarly, it's easy to collude in our beliefs and seek out those who confirm them after all. But Windsor brings a much wider experience to my norm and I suspect that's the other part I value.
The exchanges that leave me irritated, even annoyed if I'm honest with myself, are often the most valuable. Perhaps they challenge a fixed belief that needs to be prodded from time to time or its maybe that irritation helps me articulate my counter position better. It also challenges my authenticity. I look at how I might express my response constructively and how that leaves me open to learning. It is all so valuable and why so often I leave Windsor unable to describe exactly what I have learned in that moment. But that changes as my learning slowly simmers and my insights deepen.
A strong theme for me and others this year was how we enable others ( and ourselves?) to move from a concept of hierarchical leadership models to ones of shared leadership. It's one I have studied of late through research into the Workplace of Tomorrow where People and Planet Really Matter. So it wasn't a new concept to me maybe but the discussion helped to affirm and give power to my belief in the need for this paradigm shift in leadership. My year ahead I know will be focused on how to to enable myself and others to achieve this in reality.  
I know why I prioritise this trip to Windsor every year, it's a rare gift and a special place to learn and grow. each time I think how much I would love to replicate this opportunity in Scotland too...who knows maybe this year I will.