How FutureNHS can help you spread change and improvement across systems

Anyone involved in health and social care can use FutureNHS to support their improvement and innovation work.

Using FutureNHS will enhance your work, making it more successful and rewarding. It is an easy-to-use tool that opens up exciting possibilities for improvement that many others are using to successfully spread change.

This case study explains how FutureNHS reflects and facilitates the seven interconnected principles for spread and adoption that are key to success.

We hope this inspires you to join the FutureNHS platform and its communities, to be an active member and even to create your own workspace/community.

by Alice Montgomery-Reed, Head of FutureNHS

Joining FutureNHS is easy and free, with many health and social care users able to self register through pre-approved email addresses. The platform is overseen within NHS England and supports frontline staff working in the NHS, local government and the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector, as well as regional and national policy and programme leaders. Growing numbers of people with lived and living experience who are contributing to improvement are also members of FutureNHS.

The platform is far more than the technology. The FutureNHS team provides training, dedicated support, good practice, tailored advice and analytics. The FutureNHS team and FutureNHS communities recently won the National Improvement Award for ‘Spreading change and improvement across systems.’ in recognition of the benefit delivered across the UK by the FutureNHS platform.

Power up with FutureNHS - Benefit from knowledge, people and learning you won’t find on Google. Find information, ask questions, and draw on the collective wisdom of your colleagues, peers and experts.

How FutureNHS enables you to apply the seven interconnected principles for spread and adoption

The 7 interconnected principles are explained in detail in NHSE ‘Leading the Spread and Adoption of Innovation and Improvement: A Practical Guide’.

  1. Complexity
  2. Leadership
  3. The Individual
  4. Benefit
  5. Adopter Focus
  6. Networks
  7. Learning

1. Complexity

FutureNHS can help you understand and manage the complexity of your improvement challenge.  This is needed because health and care is a complex adaptive system, continually changing and adapting involving a myriad of stakeholders.  

The outstanding feature of FutureNHS is how it allows the full range of people with a stake in an issue to connect freely across boundaries.   The platform allows members to respond quickly to the changing health and care landscape, most recently supporting its members to collaborate at scale during the pandemic. Virtual communities on FutureNHS embrace and shine a light on the high levels of interdependence and connectivity, competing and changing demands, unpredictability, uncertainty and myriad relationships.  Therefore, improvement leaders using FutureNHS are better equipped to positively respond to emergence and the complexity of change.

Given this complexity of the health and care challenges, traditional, rigid methods of engagement and communications aren’t enough.  FutureNHS supports engagement that is fast, fluid and iterative.  Traditional models of cascade communication and formal consultation engagement are enhanced by people being able to quickly and openly share questions and experience. Traditional publishing models where guidance and information can’t be shared until it has been signed off for bulletins or corporate websites are enhanced by the ability to share immediately and to share early work supporting co-design and rapid response.   Traditional models of ‘roll out’ of an improvement or innovation are replaced by an ability for adopters to learn with pioneers and their peers and to adapt and evolve the innovation.

During the Covid response, it helped people to come together quickly.  The workspace, the things being shared there and local development was going faster than what we were getting down nationally. You were able to ask ‘Has anyone written a policy on this?’ instead of awaiting national guidance.”

Jade Winnett, Transformation Manager and Academy System Leadership Programme Manager at Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership

2. Leadership – an enabling leadership style – to give people the space to connect and engage – is needed

National, regional and system leaders can create virtual spaces – communities on the platform - for their stakeholders to connect, share and learn. 

Virtual collaboration supports a culture of co-production, collaboration, learning and frontline empowerment.  Virtual collaboration isn’t just a technical approach to connecting people more easily. It’s a different way of enabling change by bringing many people together, creating power for change and communities for people to learn, share and grow together.  Importantly, it empowers leaders to fundamentally change the way they engage with their stakeholders because hierarchical power dynamics are shifted towards open, inclusive and iterative dynamics.   There can be rapid, ongoing reciprocal communications and feedback giving insights for national and regional programmes on what was happening ‘on the ground’.  Views and perspectives of local leaders can be picked up and addressed quickly e.g. through discussion forums or ‘Ask a question.’

However, given it is a new way of working, there is a need to encourage and support good practice in virtual collaboration. Most people have little experience of setting up, running and maximising the benefits of virtual collaboration e.g. setting up virtual communities. Leaders need to both develop their own knowledge and skills around virtual collaboration and support people to take on this new way of working. 

Quality improvement leaders can be strong leaders of virtual communities to support change and improvement across systems.  The leader of the future will be one who is as competent and capable in virtual connection and collaboration as they are in other skills and methodologies for leadership, change and improvement.

The FutureNHS team provides and signposts support and advice on establishing and running successful virtual communities.

It is helping to create a social movement. Members of the workspace have fed back views which have changed policy. This wouldn’t have happened in the past. The platform lets everyone’s voice be heard. It is empowering - busy clinicians – they can take 3-5 minutes to post and challenge, represent their opinions and change documents. This is very professionally empowering. Now we can shine a light on people working in safeguarding, their work and views.  We have flexed and changed our workplans according to feedback.”

Kenny Gibson - National Head of Safeguarding, NHS England 

3. Individual – the perspective of the individual – patient, carer, staff member – is pivotal to enable behaviour change

FutureNHS puts you closer in touch with the individuals involved in your issue and helps them feel motivated, engaged and capable of change. Being part of communities can help people access a supportive setting, professional development and growth, new relationships and connectivity to learning and knowledge.

Using FutureNHS can give you a richer picture of the full range of individuals involved in your work.  You can gain this insight through the way they take part in the community and by directly engaging them (e.g. using discussion forums or spaces for specific groups within your community such as patients).  You can find out more about what an innovation or improvement means to people and learn from any resistance to adoption to help you increase the relevance of your work.

It is easy to spot individuals who play key roles in the networks and communities and to make contact and encourage them further; recognising and celebrate involvement in improvement.

Our community has an open relationship with our community members, strategic partners and community leads, our work is  underpinned by 4 principles:  community-curated and indexed resources, a safe space for discussion, a market exchange to allow members to exchange knowledge and finally a self learning development programme to upskill our members talents,”

Alex Chung - AnalystX Community Manager, NHS England

4. Benefit – focus on the benefit rather than the innovation, the ‘why’ not the ‘what’

National programmes can use FutureNHS to communicate clearly the ‘why’ and to recognise progress.  They can also pick up views about what matters locally.

Local improvement leaders can establish communities on FutureNHS to address local strategic, agreed priorities. 

Often a series of regional or system level communities are created on FutureNHS to address national priorities. This means each local community for the national priority can focus on local priorities and challenges and how the innovation is locally adapted.

Communities help create a pull for an innovation by building shared purpose and a ‘crowd’ to provide the energy for change, generating motivation and activating agency and building and maintaining momentum.

I think Making Data Count especially is the gold standard on how to make a buzzing grassroots community of practice,”

Edwin Magombe Lead of the Demand and Capacity FutureNHS network

5. Adopter focus – support adopters so they have a sense of agency and feel energised about the work

FutureNHS communities are best when they are inclusive and involve both pioneers (the first individuals to adopt an innovation) and adopters. Potential adopters can be included from the start which maximises engagement, ownership and mutual learning with pioneers and increases the likelihood of spread and sustainability. 

FutureNHS is flexible and enables you to build an overall community whilst focusing on the specific needs of people at different stages of the improvement journey.

Virtual communities can capture and share learning on local adaption and pick up unintended consequences to inform learning. This helps co-create a meaningful narrative for change based on knowledge and experience gained from a wide range of places.

“I find FutureNHS is a bottomless supply of rich resources and advice / networking,”
Carl Walker

6. Networks – build communities, energising and connecting individuals

This is the core work of FutureNHS.  You can set up every type of network / community on FutureNHS and you can tap into existing networks and communities at national, regional and local level.  Communities and networks are so important because they increase communication, interaction and collaboration and the flow of knowledge and learning as well as development of mutual support.  FutureNHS enables connectivity across many systems and networks building strong links and loose links – helping the overall movement for improvement.

There are more than 2000 workspaces on FutureNHS. The platform supports communities that are very small or very large, short-term or long-term, focused on a challenge or focused on a profession, entirely virtual or hybrid etc.  You can search for workspaces on your topic and make contact with the workspace manager to check opportunities to align work or join and simply get involved in the discussion forum.

The Improvement Hub is a single gateway to a family of improvement workspaces on FutureNHS. There are many national improvement workspaces on FutureNHS covering a wide range of priorities, topics and approaches.  The Improvement Hub enables anyone interested in improvement to easily find out about the different sources of learning and networks. It supports improvers to be better connected.

FutureNHS makes it simple to tap into the diverse minds of peers and experts who understand your world, are passionate about the same things you are and can help advance your work.

We have used this collaborative workspace to inspire and share resources across systems to improve the retention of our internationally recruited colleagues through the #stayandthrive community of action - thank you,”

Fiona Holbrough

7. Learning – build a learning system and habit of learning, sharing with and seeking knowledge from others

FutureNHS can be used to underpin a learning system and to support a culture of continual learning by encouraging members to share, seek and use knowledge and experience.

Members of FutureNHS can seek out experience and knowledge from others, both what goes right and what does not.  Virtual communities of practice can provide psychological safety to enable learning - a supportive, safe setting to learn and speak up about what is and isn’t working.

FutureNHS supports ongoing collection, coordination and sharing of knowledge, building a qualitative and quantitative evidence base, capturing local rapid feedback and sharing evaluation.

You can contribute to one of the biggest interactive sources of health and social care knowledge by sharing opinions, documents, templates, learning and case studies. Empower others and shine a light on your progress. It’s simple and secure.

There are a number of hub or overview workspaces on FutureNHS to help people navigate a complex topic or area:

  • The ICS Development Hub brings together links to all of the integrated care workspaces across the platform to provide a 'front door' to all the information, guidance, tools and learning opportunities to support Integrated Care Systems.
  • ICS Digital and Data is building a community to help colleagues across ICSs take forward their programmes.
  • The Equality and Health Inequalities Network brings together materials to support NHS staff working to improve patient equality and health inequalities.
  • The brings together all workspaces related to the digital transformation of health and care.
  • The Mental Health, Learning Disabilities and Autism Resource Hub hosts resources on cross-cutting programmes, directs users to existing workspaces and shares information on policy areas where these workspaces do not currently exist.
  • The Population Health Management Academy provides a forum for information, discussion, news and the sharing of best practice for health, social care, public health and voluntary sector colleagues who want to collaborate and innovate to drive personalised approaches to care interventions.

There are also many local workspaces e.g.

  • The Surrey 500 Leadership Programme aims to create a community of practice for Surrey 500 learners and alumni to continue their collaborative leadership journey.
  • Having had two years' experience of using FutureNHS as an acute care collaboration vanguard, Dorset decided to set up a workspace ‘One Acute Network’ for ongoing system wide work including the Dorset Clinical Networks Programme.  This programme started with 6 workstreams each with a workstream board and their own FutureNHS pages.

“It is a space for everyone with a contribution to make - we have volunteers, active citizens, people from housing, local government, drug and alcohol, health visitors involved. People connected up e.g. psychiatrists connecting with people struggling to support people with mental health problems. It was a genuinely learning community – people took the best, made it even better and shared back.”

Olivia Butterworth, Head of Public Participation for NHS England on the Homelessness and Inclusion Health workspace

Find out more, join us and get involved

Along with all the challenges and hardship, the pandemic led to a welcome rapid acceleration in use of virtual collaboration to support change and improvement. 

We call on all people involved in improvement to build on these gains.  Leaders have an important role to play in supporting staff to collaborate virtually – making the new ways of working the norm and a core way of working. The right culture and support are vital because the virtual approaches differ from familiar programmatic and command and control models. A culture of collaboration and innovation is about trust, diversity, sharing power, taking risks and working openly. 

Become a member of FutureNHS; join or create workspaces to connect, learn and share. Don’t reinvent the wheel, use FutureNHS. Visit the FutureNHS website to set up your account which will take you just a minute to two.

To read more examples of how organisations and teams have used FutureNHS to drive improvement and change, visit the FutureNHS Case Study Hub to be inspired. 

If this has spiked your interest in spread and adoption, more information on the seven interconnected spread and adoption principles including blogs and videos, is available on Horizons website.

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