“The purpose is to bring people together to feel energised and connected”: Emma Challans-Rasool on the benefits of the NHS Executive Strategy Summit  and creating a deliberately developmental space for operational professionals”

In preparation for the NHS Executive Strategy Summit on the 7th November, Distilled Post spoke with Emma Challans-Rasool about improving patient flow, perceptions of operations professionals and the benefits of the summit. The event is an opportunity for senior Operational and System Leaders, including Chief Executive Officers and Chief Operating Officers to come together from across the NHS to discuss solutions to issues including winter pressures, patient flow and digital strategies. Also present will be representatives from leading companies seeking to implement digital solutions to these issues. 

The event is co-organised by Meet Health Events and Proud2bOps, of which Emma is the Founder and Chair. Proud2bOps is the UK’s only supportive network for operational managers and leaders in the healthcare sector. With over 1,300 members, the network provides a safe space for operational professionals to connect, share best practices and develop leadership and management skills. Emma is a Director in Horizons and Proud2bOps and has worked across healthcare for over 20 years.   Her career spans operational leadership, OD and transformation, improvement, and management development. 

The conversation started with a discussion on how providers can improve patient flow throughout the system in a sustainable way. “It fundamentally comes down to the workforce, in terms of capacity and capability” Emma said. Although she acknowledged that one factor was capacity and sufficient numbers of staff, Emma pointed towards other pertinent questions: “have we equipped our workforce with the tools, knowledge and consistent support for development of their skills to be able to effectively lead and support patient flow?”. Emma suggested that we should be asking “have we got people who have been invested in and developed to be the best that they can be in a role, from a knowledge and skills perspective.  We should ask ourselves this first before judging effectiveness of patient flow”. 

“I think it’s fair to say that morale and motivation across the NHS at the moment is particularly fragile”, Emma added. Indeed, a survey conducted by NHS Providers in September 2022 revealed that a majority (61%) of NHS Trust leaders reported a rise in staff sickness absence due to mental health, while the ongoing cost of living crisis had resulted in two thirds (68%) of respondents reporting significant impacts from staff leaving Trusts to work in other more competitively paid sectors such as retail or hospitality. Improving “the culture and the climate” is vital, Emma surmised, in improving patient flow. 

Discussing patient flow led to a conversation on the potential of technology to help with this particular issue; as Emma observed, public use of the NHS has totally transformed since its foundation; “today, it’s not delivering what it was asked to deliver all those years ago - it’s delivering something totally different on what are still in many cases traditional models of design and delivery, that are not fit for purpose”. She acknowledged that digital solutions would take time to reach the mainstream and highlighted their significance in solving some of the most pressing issues facing the service   

Extraordinarily, no network existed to support and connect operational professionals in the healthcare sector prior to Proud2bOps. “Ops has never really been recognised as a profession in its own right” Emma said; she thinks that perhaps the lack of clarity surrounding the role can often lead to negative stereotyping of managers compared to other clinical roles. Proud2bOps provides a space for communities of operations professionals to come together in a safe, supportive climate to discuss shared problems and share examples of operational excellence. Emma described it as “a network, but it’s more of a social movement that has grown with purpose, engagement and founded on core values and principles… which is where you get the true culture change”. Proud2bOps is a success because of its members and their passion.  

The conversation ended with a question on what has inspired the collaboration on the NHS Executive Strategy Summit with Meet Health Events. “We try to ensure that we offer different platforms, spaces and opportunities for members to connect”. The NHS Executive Strategy Summit will “give attendees that reflective space and time where members can grow their relationships and have an in-depth conversation regarding operational excellence”, which Emma believes can be more “emotive and meaningful” than virtual discussions. The collaboration with Meet Health Events came about because “they appreciate and recognise Ops… and they have similar values, aims, ambitions and objectives for improving patient care”. “They’re mindful of the operating environment of the NHS and the challenges faced in terms of planning and delivering services. So instead of trying to do things alone, let’s do it in partnership”. This spirit of collaboration will be in abundance at the NHS Strategy Executive Summit, and as Emma concluded: “the purpose is to bring people together to feel energised and connected, and to give back to our communities through attendees taking away key learnings and insights they can adopt into their own environments”. 

The NHS Executive Strategy Summit  is on the 7th of November in London, organised by Meet Health Events and Proud2bOps.

To learn more about the event, visit: https://www.meethealthevents.com/nhs-executive-strategy-summit-ness-2023
To learn more about Proud2bOps, visit: https://www.proud2bops.org