Breaking Down Barriers Between Organisations To Improve Cancer Patient Outcomes and Experience

A new way of working together, breaking down organisational barriers and taking a whole-system approach to enhancing patient experience through improving cancer waiting time performance, has been launched in West Yorkshire and Harrogate.

Led by the Chief Executives of our six acute hospital Trusts, the launch of the WYH Cancer Alliance improvement collaborative was attended by more than 100 patients, clinicians, managers and cancer team members from across local places.

The initial focus was on lung and prostate – currently the most challenging pathways – but the plan is ultimately to roll out to all tumour pathways.

To kick off the launch, the Chief Executives Julian Hartley (Leeds); Owen Williams (Calderdale and Huddersfield); Steve Russell (Harrogate); Brendan Brown (Airedale) and John Holden (Bradford) each gave their personal perspective on why the new approach was important. Martin Barkley, Chief Executive of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals, joined the event later.

Pictured above, right, is patient Richard Seddon with Brendan Brown, Airedale Chief Executive

“For me, it’s about eradicating the ‘what if’ moments – moments at the end of an individual’s treatment where we ask ‘what if we had done things differently,” said Owen Williams.

Steve Russell said there was both a "moral imperative!" as one single NHS and "a people imperative and responsibility to our patients to break down organisational barriers and focus on the right thing for the individual.”

Brendan then hosted an ‘in conversation’ session with Richard Seddon, a prostate cancer patient, and Sara Williamson, a breast cancer patient, who is also Chair of the Yorkshire Cancer Community – formerly the Yorkshire Cancer Patient Forum. Richard and Sara - pictured below left - were invited to share their experiences – both positive and not-so-positive – at the start of the session. This then reinforced from the outset that the event’s focus was on collaboration for patient benefit, and not meeting performance targets just for their own sake. Both Richard and Sara are now working with the Chief Executives to identify how their experiences can be used by cancer teams in the individual Trusts to improve pathways.

Four other members of the Cancer Alliance community/patient panel also participated in the event and will continue to co-produce the work of the improvement collaborative over the coming months. They joined table discussions which brought together the stakeholder perspectives from each place, working in locality groups, to identify a range of positive ideas for improvement that could be put into action. A representative from each group then spoke on behalf of their peers to ‘pitch’ their idea to the room.

Sandra Shannon, Chief Operating Officer, Bradford Teaching Hospitals; Bill Cross, Consultant Urologist, Leeds Teaching Hospitals, and Helen Barker, Chief Operating Officer, Calderdale and Huddersfield, shared how their own organisations have approached their improvement journey. Delegates had been asked to complete postcards in advance of the session, describing both a successful improvement or change they had made, and a change or attempted improvement that wasn’t working.

These were then used to inform ‘pod’ discussions around key themes and the personal pledge that each person attending was asked to post before leaving the event.

All the work undertaken on the day is now being collated and analysed and a work plan being put together to determine the next steps for action. This will be supported by an offer of funding for practical improvement facilitation to each local place, as part of the Cancer Alliance 2019/2020 delivery plan

“Now the hard work really begins,” said Professor Sean Duffy, Clinical Lead for the Cancer Alliance. “There was a real buzz in the room, and everyone came with an appetite to make a real difference for patients. “The powerful lived-experience of Richard, Sara and other patient panel members who are working with us continues to energise our work still further as we move into the action phase. Watch this space!”

Here what those talking part in the launch event had to say......