29 June 2020

Quality Department ‘Virtual Away Day’

A personal reflection by Katherine Brittin, Associate Director of Quality Improvement.

The Quality Department hosted their first ‘proper’ virtual ‘away day’ on 26 June. What I mean by ‘proper’, is that it was designed with intent to utilise the technology we now have available to the best we could and develop content to reflect our unprecedented current situation.

Our previous ‘away day’ in March was at the onset of lockdown when the world was unsure what would happen next. We were amid the chaos of change. That first ‘away day’ felt more (and appropriately so) like a responsive meeting with the purpose of planning operations for the next 90 days. This ‘away day’ felt more ‘normal’ with the purpose of celebration, team building, strategic planning and a focus on our improvement work and staff wellbeing.

A heartfelt thank you

We started the day with a welcome, a note of gratitude and heartfelt thanks from our Chief Quality Officer Dr Amar Shah. The team had received by post a personalised thank you card (figure 1.) depicting all team members. Tim Gill and illustrator Jonny Glover did a fantastic job of the design. Tim then came to the office to make sure they were all posted in time and even made sure one of our colleagues stuck in lockdown in South Africa received her card in time.

This note of appreciation to team was to recognise how the team have risen to the challenge of this unprecedented situation.

Figure 1. Thank you card and text


Creating a time capsule

Our first session was to give the team time to think about the last 90 days and what it had meant to them, how they had felt and what were the themes that had emerged while history was being made. It made me reflect on those who had experienced the ‘World Wars’ and how they had coped with this immediate threat to their physical and mental wellbeing. Nicola Ballingal (our in house artist) introduced the team to sketchnotes (as used in our QI illustrated guide) to help them illustrate their thoughts. This exercise was for many an emotional personal reflection. The result was some amazing artwork that will be captured in a ‘time capsule’ and reviewed in the future. The theme of paradox was evident in many of the illustrations and also the importance of connection. (figure 2). The whole Quality Department really seemed to enjoy this session

Figure 2. QI Sketchnotes

The QI Values

ELFT’s values resonate with everyone around the trust and we as a department do our best to make sure we live and work by them. However, Auz Chitewe (Associate Director for QI) and I recently had a discussion that the interpretation of the values varied and dependent on many human factors. As a leadership team we identified it would be important for our team to really explore what the Trust values meant to us as a department. The team worked collaboratively to come up with tangible examples and in a later session prioritised what was important to them. Jamie Stafford (Senior Improvement Advisor) presented the completed document back to the department. We all agreed our values (figure 3) will be reviewed and referred to regularly to support us to endeavour to uphold the values we have collectively agreed to.

Figure 3. Our QI values

Celebrating the last 90 days

Celebrating what we had all come through in the last 90 days and the response from the department was important to recognise. All areas of the department have contributed to the Trusts response to COVID. Our data team have assisted with getting people working virtually; our improvement advisors have supported directorates and departments to think through their challenges using all sorts of improvement tools,  more recently co-facilitating the ‘shaping our future’ sessions; our support team have been collecting, collating and publishing stories to share learning and celebration around the Trust. Monitoring and evaluating our progress was important to help us think ahead,  Akkash Purani (Senior Improvement Data Analyst) led us through our 90-day data review where the data was clear, we needed to celebrate the departments hard work.


Developing our new 90-day strategy – staff wellbeing 

We then turned our attention to the next 90 days and called on Shefa Begum (Business development partner) from people and culture to help us think through or staff wellbeing strategy. We set out to explore ‘future pruning’. Francisco Frasquilho (Senior Improvement Advisor) led the  ‘tree’ exercise (figure 4), we tested using  ‘Miro’ white board to depict the tree and added our ‘leaves’ representing actions that ‘we’, ‘our manager’, ‘our organisation’ and ‘colleagues’ could do to improve our wellbeing at work. Many themes emerged including ‘managing time’, ‘ensuring breaks’, ‘sharing learning’ and ‘flexible working’ (figure 3). This session was fun and interactive and after initial technical issues was very productive.

Figure 4. ‘pruning’ the future

A Fun Afternoon

After lunch we enjoyed a fantastic and funny balloon art training session (figure 5) led by expert balloon enthusiast Amma Amrin (Quality Assurance Facilitator)… I can now make a beautiful balloon flower.

Figure 5. Balloon fun

Duncan Gilbert (Head of Quality Assurance) and Sarah Stillwell (Deputy Head of Quality Assurance) led a session on QI/QA connections which provided valuable insights into our respective future 90-day strategies. In addition, further discussions around how we can crosscut the two department, support each other more and share best practices. Current work between the two areas of the department is a ‘new starter’ project seeking to improve the experiences of new starts to the Trust even more important with virtual working and exciting future projects such a collaborative podcasting …more to follow!

Tim Gill our in-house quiz master finished the day with one of his well thought through and exciting quizzes I did not win but Marco Aurelio (Improvement Advisor) did by a long shot.

Thank you to all who made this day possible with a special mention to Amar for guiding us through this period; to Tim and  Shubz (Mohammad Shuhayb Ramjany) for all their work and patience behind the scenes; to Forid Alom and Akkash Purani in preparing the data for the day; to Shefa Begom from people and culture for supporting us and to Nicola, Jamie and Francisco for stepping in at the at last minute to support the day.

…but most of all to the amazing QI/QA department team members who have work so hard over the last 90 days…remember you are also NHS heroes.

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