Successful low-cost or no-cost change in hospital supply chain teams

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Successful low-cost or no-cost change in hospital supply chain teams

Thursday 16 November 2017

Perhaps the best thing about being part of NHS Supply Chain’s eDC team is the opportunity to witness first hand all the positive change happening in trusts on a daily basis. Less in meeting rooms or on PowerPoint slides, more in hospital goods-in areas, stock rooms and theatre suites. These are the places where small change happens daily that has some of the biggest impact on patient safety, adoption of effective and  efficient operational processes, and sustainable reductions in operating cost.

What motivates me

Kat Hoggarth

Kat Hoggarth, Theatre Stores Person, Freeman Hospital, Newcastle

“I’ve been in this role now for 4 years and I love the job and knowing I can make a difference. I’ve worked really hard at it but now I have the respect of the surgeons and the clinical team – they give me the space to manage theatre stores myself. I have good control of our stock and it’s a great feeling to have surgeons seek out my view on how we manage our loan kits or how we reduce costs. Now we have a stock management system I’m excited to see how we can get even better governance going on, knowing that the right people will listen to what I’ve got to say.”

The beating heart of this change of course, is not expensive systems, management consultants, policy change from senior teams, or even the clinical staff who, by necessity, have an all-consuming patient focus. In our experience, it’s the band two and three materials management and stores professionals who have the opportunity to ‘be the change’ in a cash-strapped theatre or ward suite.

There is a ‘low-cost or no-cost’ way to leverage these teams as well. As the American author and lecturer Dan Pink lays out in his book on workplace motivation¹, all it needs is to instil three things: autonomy (being self-directed), mastery (the feeling that you are good at what you do and recognised for it), and purpose (a sense of doing something for the greater good).

The last one is perhaps the easiest to instil. Even as non-NHS employees the sense of purpose we get when we help free up nursing time through process change, or facilitate the removal of expired sterile implants from shelves, is immense in our team. For a direct NHS employee that sense of purpose must be all the more motivating.

To instil a sense of self-direction and autonomy in stores and supply chain staff, one could argue is as simple as listening to their experience and trusting them to make the right decisions. Yes, the clinical team knows best how to apply a product, but surely the vast majority of the non-clinical stock management decisions should lie with the professionals in that field?

Which brings us to ‘mastery’, which in our own team translates into the opportunity to make mistakes in a safe and trusting environment. Lessons are learned when we implement eDC or eDC Gold which provide opportunities to enable us to get better at what we do.

Without a doubt, the trusts that we’ve met that forge the most successful changes are the ones where the supply chain or materials management teams are respected and listened to. As valued professionals they are given the right amount of space by trust management to make mistakes and learn from them, and, like us, are passionate about the NHS and what it can achieve.

¹ ‘Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us’ Daniel H. Pink

Mark Vallentine

By Mark Vallentine, Implementation Manager, NHS Supply Chain