THE BLOG

A New Year's Resolution That Doesn't Just Help You...

16/01/2014 12:02 GMT | Updated 18/03/2014 09:59 GMT

On 1 January 2014 many people will have woken up with the intention of introducing, or removing, something from their lives.

The good old New Year's resolution - that annual self-promise, often made in response to a single event that reminds you of how old, unfit or unhealthy you are becoming.

Unfortunately, for the majority of us, the speed at which the vow is made often equates to the speed at which it is forgotten. Gym memberships not used, chocolate eaten at the first sign of stress, the long-planned phone call that remains never made.

In 2013, however, thousands of health care staff made a resolution to do something different in their working lives - but this time it was more than just a passing whim.

They pledged, as part of NHS Change Day, to re-affirm a positive habit or do something different to challenge and improve their practice. There was no edict on what they had to. The choice, just like a New Year's resolution, was entirely up to them.

There was no obligation to complete the pledge that they had made. No-one was watching over them. But much a like a running group or book club, there was a network of like-minded pledgers to hold them to account. The idea of Change Day was to not to force, direct or influence but to inspire and promote collaboration in one of the world's largest workforces.

The volume of pledges that were made as a result was remarkable and although, much like the annual resolution ritual, actual outcomes are difficult to pin down, the fact that some sort of social movement has been established was clear to see.

From the delivery of learning materials (see here) to real time patient experience pledges, a range of actions were undertaken as a result of pledges made - some of which had significant and long-lasting effects on the pledger as well as a huge positive impact on the quality of patient care.

Louise Towse for example, a student nurse keen to find better ways to empathise with the people in her care, created a simulation event in which student nurses experienced being patients for the day. Feedback was so good that this simple but effective practice is now a regular part of the student nurse curriculum in York. see here

On the face of it Louise's idea was a simple resolution that only needed actioning once. But because she dared to try, her idea will now have a positive influence on many patients for a long time to come.

NHS Change Day caught the mood and imagination of thousands of NHS staff. It gave them the tacit permission to try the things they've always wondered about but never dared explore.

And although it started as a grassroots movement by and for those working in the NHS, it has now spread far more widely to include patients, who themselves are key players in improving the overall experience of NHS care.

If you are a patient, a member of the public, work in the third sector or social care you can get involved in Change Day too.

So as you're reading this, perhaps with a tinge of regret that once again your New Year's resolution has been consigned to the dustbin of good intentions, remember there is another chance during the year to pledge to make a difference. And this time you'll be in the company of thousands of like-minded people.

So my plea to staff and patients across the UK to put the New Year behind you and make one pledge at www.changeday.nhs.uk on or before March 3rd 2014.

It won't necessarily make you healthier but it will help to keep our NHS - the service that looks after us all at some point in out lives - in good shape to face the challenges ahead.