More frontline NHS staff should be encouraged to come forward with their ideas for improving the health system – that's the message given to senior NHS leaders from the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement and NESTA (National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) today (12 November 2008).
Both organisations feel much more could be achieved if senior leaders created a culture that helped bring new, entrepreneurial ideas to the surface.
According to the NHS Institute, there has been a significant increase in the appetite for innovation in staff from all levels of the NHS. Figures from a national learning network open to all NHS staff show a 75% increase in the number of frontline staff who have had ideas and want to work together to make them happen.
Bernard Crump, chief executive of the NHS Institute, said: "At this time of economic uncertainty, it is more important than ever to unlock the creativity of our workforce.
"We know there are bright people across the NHS who are sitting on great improvement ideas and we want these people to feel they can come forward, share them with their colleagues, and together make them happen.
He added: "Through some of the projects we have been involved in we have seen firsthand what happens when staff and patients are engaged in improving their environment; the results can be outstanding".
According to Mr Crump, the NHS also needs to be more transparent about the challenges it's facing so that innovators can come up with solutions that directly address them.
Jonathan Kestenbaum, chief executive of NESTA, said: "The challenge to find radical new solutions to today's pressing health issues has arrived. Now is the time for the UK to resist the conventional approaches to solving problems and open the doors to revolutionary new ideas.
Should practice managers have a greater say in how the health service is run? What are your ideas? Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)
"I am all for new ideas for improving health – however, we should at times look back and learn from mistakes. Here we are again this week listening to the case of the murdered child and social services getting the blame, and yesterday two innocent babies stabbed to death. So social services take another bashing. I am not saying they are not at fault but I truly believe the problems start before then. When we were told the health visitors were being pulled out of practice, when nursery nurses do the home visits, I said at that point child protection would rise and maybe some innocent children would come to more harm. When we had fulltime health visitors, they knew everything about the family and everyone in the family. That is not the case now. When a baby came for its injections, the health visitor saw the family. When they did not turn up for the injections, they would visit the family ... I know people probably think this is a step back but if you know the health visitor is 'watching you' this can only improve the service and reduce the number of child protection cases. So in answer to your question: yes, practice managers should have a greater say, as they know what happens on the shop floor rather than those 'up above' who have no idea. (I feel better for that.)" – Gloria Middleton, Sunderland