A Business Lesson from the NHS

Fortunately, mortality rates aren’t a statistic that are going to be found on a board room agenda. For the NHS however, it’s a very real measurement and naturally a figure they wish to keep as low as possible.

With reports questioning the safety of some maternity services, and the accuracy of identifying risk factors in midwifery practice, many hospitals have adopted a ‘fresh eyes’ approach, where a midwife has a ‘buddy’ to check heart machine readings to ensure there’s no misinterpretation of results, thereby improving quality control.

Compliance vs Commitment

Organisations – including the NHS – tend to turn to compliance to ensure things are done properly. However, it’s been shown that commitment from engaged, motivated staff yields just as good results.

This was an issue that was raised within the NHS, where midwives felt initially their practice was being ‘policed’. However, with support and encouragement to be actively involved in the implementation of the project, staff took ownership and the negative feelings dissipated.

With this renewed vigour, the ‘fresh eyes’ approach has helped many NHS Trusts prevent the risk of misinterpretation, fatigue, over familiarity and limited knowledge from getting that vital outside perspective from a colleague.

Applying ‘fresh eyes’ at work

We’re all bound by what we know. The reality is that we don’t need to be in the NHS to realise the benefits of fresh perspective. Are you working in the hamster wheel, day after day? With research showing 1 in 4 SMEs don’t even have a business plan, you certainly aren’t alone.

Part of the reason why the NHS’ initiative has been successful is that the ‘buddy’ wasn’t necessarily a manager, or superior. Midwives were able to choose who supervised their work, and it was this key element that helped buy-in and statistical success.

Soldiering through problems alone can result in risking not seeing the wood for the trees. We’re so caught up in the doing that we may not realise there could have been a better, faster, easier approach to begin with. Better yet, if assessed as part of the ‘big picture’, we may decide it’s not worth doing at all!

These are the sort of issues that an ISO 9001 Quality Management System is intended to help with. By establishing a framework so everyone knows what to do and how to do it, managers then find it easier to delegate and get on with what they should really be doing more of – strategic thinking and planning.

At a lower level, implementing ISO 9001 necessitates engagement, involvement and communication. These elements are essential both in terms of getting people to take interest in using the standard in the first place, but also working as an efficient and effective team moving forward. It may not save lives, but if it means delivering a better service to customers, this is great news for all concerned.

We’re also here to help. With our Assessors visiting 1,000s of organisations of different shapes and sizes every year, the sharing of best practice is an inevitable and welcome by-product of going through the ISO 9001 process.

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Learn more about how ISO 9001 how can help provide some fresh eyes to your organisation by downloading our free White Paper.