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News from our Managing Director

See below for the latest news from Medequip's Managing Director - David Griffiths. For upcoming events, please visit our Events Calendar page.

Date:

Change. Always the Answer?

Is Change the Answer?

My mother-in-law Mary has recently moved into a residential care home. Despite our best intentions, it all happened quite quickly and it was a big change for everyone in the family, especially Mary.

I noticed how we all acted differently, and at different times, to the challenge of the change. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance, the classic grief stages.

If life was a bit neater, we would have all experienced the stages in the same order and moved on at the same time. But as life's small print says "no guarantee of neatness can be made".

I've seen the full range in the Griffiths family, so you can imagine the variation in Medequip, with over 1000 people.

As an organisation, and as a group of people, we are ambitious to get better, on a large scale and in small details. This has meant constant change is the new normal and we have had to make sure we understand that change affects everyone differently.

Change is a bit like consistency, sometimes we resist it, sometimes we embrace it so enthusiastically we get a bit carried away. It is quite nice to focus on something new rather than finding renewed focus to improve something that is not working the way it should.

But, when change is required, I've learned that some of us need encouragement, some of us need support, and some of us, well we just need a bit of time and space to process stuff in our own way.

And it's the same with the people we serve, the communities that support them and our statutory and voluntary sector partners. They are all affected by layers and layers of change, experienced by many different people, in many different ways, at the same time as everything around us is changing.

There are things we are learning that help.

Involving people who use services keeps the focus on what's important and can unite different perspectives.

It's not just the big stuff that matters. Keeping an eye on the little decisions that get made every day helps make sure they are moving us in the right direction.

Of course, a good level of communication with people helps, especially if that involves checking in regularly, making sure people understand why the change is necessary.......and my personal recommendation, recognising their efforts and thanking them.

So, I'll wrap this up by saying thank you to all the people that love Mary. Like a lot of change, it wasn't really wanted and the process hasn't been easy, but by going through it together, in all our different ways, we've managed.

Date: December 2021

What a Year

2021 to 2022

David Griffiths, Managing Director shares his reflections on 2021, and his thoughts on the year ahead.

As 2021 comes to a cold, wet and windy end, the people of Medequip continue to amaze me through what has been another challenging year. Their focus, their sense of purpose and their warmth and humanity have kept the show on the road and made my day, every day, including many weekends (with my apologies to Mrs. Griffiths). We recognise this through our Employee of the Month Award and Big Thank-You Day.

I have also been amazed by the resilience of the people we support and their families, the many fantastic community organisations out there, and the wider health and social care system. It’s a system of many moving parts and I am extremely proud of the part played by Medequip.

Through our mature relationships with supply networks and our experience in joint working with Prescribers, Commissioners, and local organisations we were able to maintain, and in some areas help with additional services, which has been so important to peoples’ quality of life and independence.

Through 2021 Medequip has continued to grow and is now working with more partners than ever. So, as a national organisation, in England and Wales, across cities, towns, villages and some spectacular countryside, I am more determined than ever that the Medequip service offer works alongside local communities. We use local businesses wherever we can, and we recruit locally. I have asked Community Catalysts to support us build a community feedback process, and each depot is building links with local organisations to ensure local people are involved in improving things.

As a leading organisation you might expect us to have a lot to say. We do, where we can add value to local or national conversations. For example, in improving the hospital discharge process, in prevention and early intervention, in the switch to Digital Telecare services, and always in increasing efficiency and effectiveness.

As a leading organisation you might also expect us to perform, and we do. Despite significant inbound supply chain issues impacting on the UK we are still completing over 99.2% of our activities on time.

But you might not know we are also an organisation of big listeners. Not passively. No, we believe listening is a doing word.

- If the NHS is to achieve its ambition of proactive, place-based health and wellbeing services,

- If Local Government wants to support people to live in places they call home, and

- If communities want to be involved, respected and supported….

For 2022, we are listening.

Date:

Finding Purpose - the Medequip Journey Continues

Finding Purpose - the Medequip Journey Continues

I came across this the other day in a report by Accenture: 6 Business Change Signals | Business Futures | Accenture.

There is a growing consensus that the interests of both society and investors are best served by organisations that focus on multi-dimensional value creation for the benefit of all their stakeholders, not just shareholders.

So far so obvious, as long as we are all clear on the multi-dimensional value creation thing.

The report goes on to say that 43% of 521 of the largest organisations in the world underperform on environmental, social and governance issues despite investing in them.

It’s probably fair to say that whether you run a private, public or voluntary sector organisation, these areas will always be a work in progress.

I’ll save the environmental update for a future blog, but for now, I’m thinking to myself, as a private sector organisation delivering public services, how do I measure how well Medequip is doing to meet its core purpose.

I know we provide monitoring reports to Commissioners on each of our (41) contracts.

We also have customer care teams to contact people who use our services to see how we did.

And then we have a whole range of internal quality assurance and external audit processes, including all the industry-standard ones, plus recent applications to the Think Local, Act Personal Making it Real commitment Making it Real - Think Local Act Personal and the Department of Work and Pensions Disability Confident employer scheme Disability Confident employer scheme - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk). More details on these another time.

But do any of these tell me if Medequip is achieving its purpose of keeping people independent, and happier, for longer? Not really.

That requires a system-wide definition of the issues, agreement on the metrics and the process of collecting, analysing and reporting on the data, and most importantly a commitment to hearing the voices of people who use the services.

The work to bring health and social care together in Integrated Care Systems will help with this, but there is no guarantee every ICS will come up with the same approach to data or working with people who use services and private sector providers.

So, to my mind, we all need to work harder at getting a systematic and evidenced response to the question - have we helped people stay independent, and happier, for longer? This means we have to find answers that are good enough for now, at the same time as working to find better answers in the future.

Which reinforced my belief in the journey we have embarked on to get better at co-production and community engagement. Because, with the utmost respect to our Commissioners and the contracting authorities that employ them, it is the people who use our services, their families and friends and the communities that support them that we need to hear from, and work with, to answer the question.

I’d like to tell you I’ve found a simple answer, but I can’t.

But I can tell you the answers are simple.

The first of the Medequip values is to do what we say we are going to do - To keep our promise. That’s a good start.

Next, we will continue to listen and learn. My team and I have had some amazing conversations recently. Passionate Commissioners, inspiring voluntary sector leaders, committed and loyal staff, and we are putting the infrastructure in place to have more direct conversations with the people who use our services.

We know everyone is busy keeping the show on the road, but if you can make time to talk to us, please do.

Finally, we all know numbers count, but so do stories too. Recently Medequip had a very busy month, our busiest ever, in fact, knocking on an average of 4,700 doors a day.

It’s an impressive number, but behind each of those doors is someone with a story. We already have systems in place for counting activity, and we are working with Commissioners to improve the reporting of the difference we’ve made.

But to hear more of the stories, and to learn from people and the community groups that support them and how Medequip can help deliver on its promises, we are working with Community Catalysts Social Enterprise and Community Interest | Community Catalysts to help us co-produce a community feedback process.

I can’t promise we’ll collect 4,700 stories every day. But I can promise we’ll do more, as we continue to find ways to evidence our purpose of keeping people independent, and happier, for longer.

Date:

David Griffiths: Co-production and Community Engagement at Medequip

David Griffiths - Managing Director (Medequip)

In my last blog on why language matters I said Medequip will never make claims about co-production, instead we would make sure our partners and people who use our various services could speak for themselves.

So, I was very pleased to hear in National Co-production Week (5-9 July) that, in one of our contract areas, we are working with the local Healthwatch to collect people’s experiences of using our service. This is a great piece of joint-working.

Whilst Medequip has a long history of keeping people independent for longer, it is the Healthwatch organisation in each area that has the skills, and indeed the duty, to enable people to shape, influence and improve NHS and social care services.

I look forward to working with the commissioners and Healthwatch to continue building on the efforts of a great many people who have kept the services of both organisations operating in such difficult times.

In addition, Medequip is working with a community development organisation to make sure we have a model of feedback that involves the wider community too. I’m very excited about this work.

Lots of people and organisations, including Medequip are rightly talking about “working with the community”, and we have already taken some practical steps towards this. For example, we recently made a commitment to work with the Huddersfield Giants Community Development Foundation.

But as I talk to people across the country, in areas where we already work, and in areas where we think we could provide a great service, I’m learning that “working with the community” means many different things.

That’s why I asked for help.

Each area has its own unique organisations and challenges as well as dealing with many common issues.

The pace of NHS and social care integration is different.

Some areas have more well-developed infra-structure and funding arrangements to support the voluntary sector. Rural and urban areas are obviously different, but so too are the large metropolitan areas.

For a large organisation like Medequip this means arranging our work on co-production and community engagement flexibly, building our skills and supporting our people. Sometimes it means thinking small, sometimes big. Sometimes technology and data will be the answer, sometimes it will only play a small part.

Whatever the case. I promise that myself, and Medequip, will be curious, ask questions and listen carefully before jumping in with our (my) ideas on what’s needed.

So, to finish, recently I was pleased to see a potential Local Authority partner requesting bidders show how they would use an “ethnographic approach” to developing the service. Someone we work with described this as the process of “deep hanging around with people”.

I think he means getting to know people and listening to them and I think that’s another great way Medequip can help people stay independent for longer.

If you are an existing or potential partner of Medequip, or use our contract or retail services why not get in touch to let me know what you think.

Date:

David Griffiths: My Language Matters

Language stock image

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

Date:

Working Together to Improve Health and Social Care For All

David Griffiths - Managing Director

The government has published a paper setting out legislative proposals for a Health and Care Bill. In his recent blog, Managing Director David Griffiths explains why Medequip wants so see a focus on behaviours, as well as policy and legislation.

As a family-owned business operating since 1998, Medequip has worked through many policy changes in health and social care. Over this period we have always worked in partnership with contracting authorities, the people who use our services and the many organisations working to support them. 

The most recent paper on the subject (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/working-together-to-improve-health-and-social-care-for-all) is hard to argue with. Who wouldn't support integration and innovation if it helps to improve health and care for all? 

But has this Government and the NHS learned the lessons of the previous NHS reorganisations? 

Is it simply a shuffling of responsibilities with only lip-service paid to the fundamental challenges facing our society and the behaviour change needed to address them? At Medequip we see those challenges every day. At Medequip we reflect on our behaviour every day. 

For example, does this policy and the impending legislation deal with the systemic issues that challenge true pooled budget arrangements? I know they are only one aspect of integration but we feel there is more that could be done.

Integrated Community Equipment Service budgets are a longstanding example of pooled budgets. The theory behind them is simple. It can be a fruitless exercise trying to work out whether it is the NHS budget or social care budget that should fund particular items of community equipment and even more complicated to establish which budget benefits in the long-term. So, much simpler to pool the budget, focus on outcomes and share the risks of an overspend. 

Even with these longstanding arrangements and history of partnership working, we are seeing increasing requests to separate out health and care spend. With years of underfunding the pressure had to come out somewhere. Budget pressures have damaged the trust between partners. 

We work with over 40 contracting authorities, countless public, private and voluntary sector providers and a whole warehouse full of different suppliers and manufacturers. Through this, we have learned one thing about true partnership working. It happens when people trust each other. When they take the time to understand each other's position, challenges and cultures. 

Then, and only then will we achieve more by working together than we do trying to address the challenges individually.

Without that trust, the system will grow layers and layers of bureaucracy, financial controls and governance. Not only between the partners, but between the organisations and the people we are here to serve and support. 

So, whilst commentators debate whether the policy does enough to address social care as the poor relation, the merits of "a duty to collaborate" and the technical challenge of having two parallel governance structures for Integrated Care Systems, we at Medequip would encourage policy makers to focus on supporting the behaviours that grow trust between organisations so that we can better earn the trust of the people we are here to serve. 

While that debate happens, we will continue to deliver, service and collect over 4 million items of equipment a year, to listen to and learn from the 1.3-million people we support each year, and work in partnership with those that trust us to provide public services on their behalf. 

If you would like to work in partnership with Medequip, why not contact me or one of my trusted team at david.griffiths@medequip-uk.com.

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