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David Griffiths: My Language Matters

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A few things I've learned

Some time ago I realised that Medequip needed to set out on a journey. "Sensible thinking" I hear you say, using a road analogy for a health and social care logistics company.

The company had grown to be the largest provider of Integrated Community Equipment Services in the country. With nearly 1000 employees, 40 contracts delivered from 23 depots, new services in development and a turnover of nearly £190 million.

But this wasn’t a journey to get bigger, or faster, or anything you could measure easily.

This would be a journey to be more curious, to think smaller and to connect with people differently.

This is where it gets interesting. We started working with a consultant, but it seemed he was using a different language. When I said customers, he thought I meant Service Users. He called my customers partners, and the Service Users, well he referred to them as people who used services.

We’ve all realised we have to understand how our use of language affects people and the way we think about them.

I learned that language can create assumptions.

So, we agreed to improve our approach to working with people, to getting them more involved in how the business worked.

We have experience of running and being involved in surveys, consultations and Service User forums. But now we are going a few steps further and learning how to co-produce with people.

So, then I had to learn about the ladder of co-production, and how hard it is to climb.

We’re working with a number of organisations to help us get better and our experiences responding to the pandemic taught us a lot. But co-production? We’re not there yet.

In fact, it’s best not to think too much about it, just listen to people, be curious about their lives and always be open and honest with them.

I’ve learned that when the time comes, other people can tell us when we have co-produced something, in the meantime we won’t say it about ourselves. In a future blog I hope to be able to tell you all what difference this journey has made, to the people we support, their families, the communities they are part of and the other organisations that work with them.

For now, I’m learning the language of outcomes. That most elusive of concepts.

There's lots of help out there, and Adult Social Care, Health and Public Health have very clear outcomes frameworks and CECOPS are working on this. Most recent tenders reference them all, along with their own maintenance outcomes, improvement outcomes, outcomes for people, communities and systems.

But of course, people still want to know how much and how quickly.

We are engaging with and expecting to do some work with an organisation who have a background in community development. We’ve learned a lot just from talking to them.

They talked about the “meaningful moments” Medequip staff have with people who use the service and the phrase “smiles given for miles driven” popped into my head.

Now that’s my kind of language.

– David Griffiths, Managing Director

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