Thursday 8 July 2010


I do not like them in a box.
I do not like them with a fox.
I do not like them in a house.
I do mot like them with a mouse.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.

- Dr Seuss

It's always good to get a second opinion on contentious and contested issues. As well as frequent consults with Dr Google, it's sometimes good to reflect 'pon the wise counsel of Dr Seuss, too.

My current raison d'etre seems to be to manage policy. It's impossible for front line clinicians to manage policy day to day, so we have team meetings where we agree what policies we're not able to do, reason why we can't, which I then minute and send to managers. Maybe we'll be the next Mid Staffs with managers being informed by clinicians and Consultants what the problems are, but doing modest amounts to effect change. Who knows. We shall see. The important bit of it is that clinical teams are 'fessing up to what we can and can't deliver on, documenting that our practice is at variance with Trust guidance, reasoning why we're not doing it and informing the managament structure of this different clinical care.

It's not ideal, to meet up once a month to have to reflect on how we work, especially since 2 hours is a fair bit of time for a whole team to take out, but it's saved us a lot of time, in the long run. Not doing form filling, when the information's already captured and documented in 3 places already, has saved masses of time. And moved to a more paperless practice. And made everything more legible. And made it easier to print/email information. Clinical and secretarial staff have a lot of clever ways of working smartly.

But the main reason for this is the massive industry of policy generation that's become unhelpful. Excluding corporate/finance policies, our Trust has over 200 policies that apply to clinical staff, seeing patients. In a moment of ennui, I popped onto the web site and looked.

My oh my.

How can that work? A new junior doc or seconded nurse or bank nurse or trainee AMHP social worker or psychologist is in our service. They go to a clinic or DV or ward to see a patient. They have all their clinical process and knowledge and skills in their heads, structuring what they do and how they do it. They have the GMC/NMC/regulatory body directives in their heads, structuring what they do and how they do it. They have national guidance influencing their thinking. Maybe. They have legislative direction (particularly that MCA 2005 and MHA 1983) structuring how they work. There's usually us Consultants with our foibles, meaning certain types of assessment or interventions are "how we like things to be" which influences clinical care. On top of all this professional material, can anyone credibly believe these staff will also read, understand, implement and use over 200 policies in their practice, as well?

My angst is that oft times too much policy is generated by folk who aren't clinicians. Worse, it's done without any consultation with practising coal face clinicians. Even worse, the decision to make something happen is usually to make a policy, then consult on the policy. It's as if any alternative to a policy is never ever even entertained as a possibility. Yet how many clinical teams working in creative, iterative models of care, have working their practice defined clearly within a policy? Even the operational policies of the teams seem to be works of fiction that bear little resemblance to the function and activities of the teams.

How many times has a clinical team said, "Oooh yes, our clinical care in this area is so much better than it was last year, because we've embedded this Trust policy into our working practice and now everything's brilliant!"
Never happened, in my corner. Curious, then, that policy documentation is generated at such a staggering rate when the outcome/utility from it is evidenced as so poor. Hmmm.

People working far away from a specific clinical team will generate a policy that applies to that clinical team. They're working in the dark and generate material that's usually pretty sensible on reading through it, but is oft times unnecessary, overly tortuous and very very rarely impacts on direct clinical care.

I'll leave the final words, once again, to my colleague Dr Seuss :

Say! In the dark?
Here in the dark!
Would you, could you, in the dark?
I would not, could not, in the dark.


Cat said...

I don't think I could possibly agree more. Among my hundreds and thousands of annoyances (!) is one about policies that are written so far from the 'front line' - basically because we don't have any time to contribute. We had a 'talk' about a new trust policy where there was clearly no-one in the room when it was being developed, that actually knew how we worked and seemed to think that just adding a few layers of administrative tasks would be something we would welcome with open arms..

Anonymous said...

You know, policy burden aside you are very lucky, you don't have very powerful enemies who resort to the law and other means to get your personal opinions blocked by search engines. Care to blog about the psychology of force?