A proper end before a new beginning

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The start of spring has released upon the world a positive deluge of blogs about new beginnings, green shoots, bright new starts, clean sheets etc etc.

As ever, I am out of step and want to first acknowledge the end of something very special. This week I will say goodbye to some close and dear colleagues, many of whom are leaving the NHS because they choose to, many through no choice of their own. I also know people who are moving into new jobs, again some happily and with high expectations, others with dread and concern. We have undoubtedly been through a really traumatic change process over the past 18 months – 2 years and before we look forward, I hope we can look back and hold on to a few thoughts – these are mine.

To make sure I learn from this most recent process, as there will surely be another not far away; what did I do well, what could I have done better, what can I learn about how this change was managed not just across the system, or even across organisations, but at an individual level. The organisation I am now in is made up of several residual national organisations, some regional activity and new work. Some of the change was managed well, and some clumsily. Pace was sometimes too quick and at other times too slow. Now is the time to reflect on that process with a critical eye and capture what I have learnt so that next time I don’t repeat the same mistakes, or at least, I am more aware of how best to manage them.

With that said, I want to acknowledge that every success I now have is built upon the work of those who were here before me. I should recognise the crucial part that others played in creating the positive foundation we stand on. If I bemoan some of the problems, I inherit I must also be appreciative of the very positive legacy we now hold. We often stand on the shoulders of giants in creating and delivering great health services. Our ‘survivor guilt’ can’t get in the way of our gratitude for the work of others.

And above all, we are a service that is about caring for people, and that includes our colleagues. The rhetoric is sometimes hard to stand when it is in such great contrast to people’s lived experience. My responsibility is to make sure those around me, whether they are staying or going – feel respected, valued and cared for.

This is a hard blog to write at the moment because it is too easy to sound trite or insincere and hard to get the right balance between respect and compassion and just being glibly patronising. All I can say is that I know lots of great people leaving the NHS, I wish them enormous success whether they choose to return, or take a different path, and I want to say thank you for everything I have learnt from them on the way.