Putting people centre stage

 In Blog

By Cat Harrison

We’ve been unbelievably flattered when people have noticed that we talk with our members in a way that is a little different to the NHS norm. This is exactly what we aimed to do, so we take it as a compliment!

Doing things differently is one of the things that we hope defines us as at Sign up to Safety. We believe that the status quo is there to be challenged and we’ve tried not to be frightened to do something new or stop what isn’t working.

We focus on helping people talk to each other, to help build the strong relationships necessary for a positive safety culture. So, as you can imagine, we pay an awful lot of attention to how we communicate.

From right back at the start in 2014, what we say, how we say it, how we want people to feel when they hear our messages, and how we want them to respond, have all been carefully thought through to make sure we preach only what we practice. By role modelling what we want others to do and leading by example, we feel that we have built trust with our members.

To us, it’s pretty obvious that Communications would be a central pillar in our work as a national campaign, but is also central to any work that similarly relies on connecting with people to succeed (pretty much every project in patient safety!). Communications is all about creating meaning for people after all.

What we think we’ve done differently to others since 2014 though, is to couple traditional communications skills with our understanding and experience of what it takes to change behaviour and how to build an active movement of people who are involved and motivated.

The resulting approach to communications has been all about working with people, involving them, giving them a chance to take action, staying flexible, constantly evaluating what we do, and pouring what we learn along the way back into our future plans and ideas.

We’ve stayed open to learning more, never assuming we have all the answers but that the experts are those out there, working every day with patients and staff. We are simply there to help, encourage and cheer lead.

Communications for us isn’t about telling people what they should or shouldn’t be doing, or just broadcasting the latest news to them. Rather, it is a dynamic and ongoing opportunity to connect, to have a conversation, to evolve our thinking, and to highlight the power each person has to do things differently to build a stronger safety culture. It plays a key part in encouraging people to talk about Safety II, just culture and learning from excellence so that we can all find out more about what those really mean in their contexts.

Each of our 500 plus member organisations and all the many individuals working hard to make care safer in those, is seeking to connect with others like this. To share what they know, to learn more, and to encourage people to get involved in some way.

So, the potential for communications professionals to share their knowledge, and for those working locally on making care safer to make use of these same skills, is an exciting and huge opportunity. We want to explore this more, and plan to share our approach to engaging and involving people with you. In the meantime, we would love to hear from you;

  • What do you think of ‘communications skills’ in relation to patient safety?
  • What’s your experience of working with communications teams or approaches in your safety work?
  • How would you like this to change?

Please do share your thoughts; email team@signuptosafety.org.uk

About the author;

Cat Harrison is the communications and engagement lead for the Sign up to Safety team, and has advised numerous FTSE100 companies as well as national charities and health-related organisations. Her expertise lies in the development of impactful campaigns, the importance of language and tone in connecting with people, and engagement approaches that motivate and excite people to take action to make care safer. She tweets @catharrison4

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