Over the past twelve months, the importance of robust organisational governance has again been emphasised, with significant failings and their impact on individuals and families playing out in the full glare of the media spotlight. The continuing fallout from safeguarding failures at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. The football abuse scandal which continues to grow in scale and impact. The hundreds of reprehensible operations carried out by rogue surgeon Ian Paterson in both private and NHS hospitals. Sexual harassment and student welfare issues in higher education. Just four examples of many.
Each one of these cases has its individual characteristics, but I would like to share with you three themes that have emerged strongly from Verita’s independent investigations and reviews this year. These themes – governance, responsiveness and proactivity – will be relevant for all organisations, not just those sectors we have worked with closely in 2016/17, which include healthcare, education, business to government and charities.
The importance of staff following agreed policies, having clear escalation routes and receiving effective oversight from the board to the frontline has been apparent in much of our work. This is becoming increasingly significant in healthcare, as service providers and commissioners begin to work more closely as a single system, but without fully developed systems and processes of governance and oversight. A recent poll by Verita indicated that over 50 percent of complaints are poorly handled by organisations. This represents a missed opportunity for organisations to learn from mistakes and design more robust processes to prevent errors happening.
Prevention rather than cure remains the most effective course of action. Organisations and regulators are increasingly seeing the benefits of acting on ‘gut feel’, looking at blips on the corporate radar, and working with staff to identify emerging risks and to mitigate these before they have an impact on safety, performance or reputation. We have seen an increased use by organisations of organisational resilience assessment diagnostic tool (ORA) to focus on teams and get them to find solutions. ORA provides powerful insights that can transform organisations, departments and services by identifying weaknesses and risks across a wide range of performance indicators.
Viewing independent investigations and reviews as a power for good, rather than a ‘have-to-do’, is a significant step forward for senior staff. Leaders should not underestimate the power of owning a problem, understanding it and then implementing recommendations. This demonstrates a positive and open culture to the people who rely on your services, as well as staff, politicians, stakeholders and regulators. We have seen continual growth in forward-thinking organisations investing in training for their staff to make sure they have the relevant skills at all levels.
We are delighted to have become part of HealthTrust Europe’s framework agreement, which means that our public-sector clients know we are pre-tested and approved for quality and price. Verita can now be commissioned across the public sector without the need for difficult, time-consuming procurement exercises. This year, Verita has also attracted more associates and senior associates to strengthen our client offer, particularly in higher education, legal services and reputation management. Of course, we continue to refine our products and services on an ongoing basis, so clients can get maximum benefit from our high-value consultancy and unrivalled experience.
With the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch now established, and the ability of social media to make issues visible, I expect the next twelve months will see further media, stakeholder and political scrutiny of organisations’ abilities to account for their actions.
I would ask you to take a moment to think about how you operate as an organisation, a senior team, or as a unit. Are you confident that you have the policies, the culture and the skills in place to provide your services safely and effectively? If you have any doubts that stop you answering these fundamental questions with a resounding ‘yes’, then do please get in touch to see how we can help.