Integrated care often requires partner organisations in primary and secondary care, social care and the third sector to collaborate closely. Whilst these partner agreements may initially happen at a senior level, integrated care requires a whole system approach from senior to frontline to implement change. However, an aspect that is sometimes overlooked is creating a sense of belonging to the partnership. Sustainable change is best achieved when frontline staff understand one another and where they fit in the new system. Bringing people along the change journey towards integration is a key part of ensuring everyone is onboard to deliver a coordinated system.
So how can new partnerships help bring the voices of many together, to support integration? We suggest three key steps:
- Focus on what binds you together (hint: it’s values not processes).
- Facilitate creative and imaginative conversation.
- Enable conversation between leadership and frontline staff in one room.
Let us elaborate on these one by one.
1. Focus on what binds you together: values rather than processes
When promoting an integrated system, we are encouraging people who may not have worked directly with one another to now think of themselves as one team. A focus on shared values can help with this mindset shift. This could mean pooling existing individual organisational values and building on them further for the integrated system or starting afresh for the new partnership and brainstorming new values. Either way such discussions ultimately changes people’s thinking to, ‘What can we achieve better together?’
2. Facilitate creative and imaginative conversation
Move people away from overthinking the change. When discussing ideas on how to work well as a partnership, creative and imaginative conversations about the “new world” will resonate with stakeholders and bring them together. This is not to say this approach will land well with everyone. Change impacts people differently. However, facilitating activities where different partners focus less on pathways and processes and more on ice-breakers and trust exercises linked to their shared values helps strip away organisational boundaries and build stronger working relationships.
3. Enable conversation between leadership and frontline staff in one room
Staff often feel a separation from their senior leaders – a separation of ‘them versus us’, ‘management versus frontline’, ‘being done to’ not ‘done with’. To address this, it is important to tackle it head on by bringing frontline and senior leaders together, enabling open, honest, and transparent dialogue. This is even more important when a partnership is in development as it will allow everyone’s voice to be heard. Allowing protected time where all staff, regardless of banding, can come together in a constructive exercise will allow space for growth, understanding and empathy. All can learn from one another and new perspectives can emerge from organic conversations.
Integrated care will not produce positive outcomes without partnership. And building a partnership requires everyone to be involved. Therefore a key aspect to achieving integration is ensuring there is a shared understanding, across the partner organisations and spanning all staffing levels, of what brings them together. For people to feel a part of something, they need to understand where they and everyone else fits into the bigger picture.