Give them a gift: Thinking differently about data

19 May 2016

SPA Head of Communications Kim Borrowdale blog post on meeting with National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) Secretariat and Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

As I mentioned in my previous blog “Somewhere between heartbreak and hope” I had the pleasure of spending time with Rosie Ellis, Secretariat of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) on this trip, an organisation with very similar objectives to Suicide Prevention Australia and the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention

NSPA is an alliance of public, private, voluntary and community organisations in England who care about suicide prevention and are willing to take action to reduce suicide and support those affected by suicide.

They were set up in 2013, evolving out of the 2012 Call to Action for Suicide Prevention in England. Their work complements the Government’s strategy Preventing Suicide in England and the Department of Health is one of their members. You can find out more about their work on their website, and I will be talking through many more points when I present to members at our conference but today I thought I’d share a few thoughts following our meeting:

“Agree member contributions by project”

For example, a project in relation to developing online content moderation guidelines was taken on by a number of members contributing a balance of funding, time and professional skills. This was then project managed by NSPA for delivery and dissemination.

I liked this more formal project management arrangement and wonder if this is something we can implement more actively in the work we do. We have seen this model work in development of policy papers and positions for Government as well as the systems approach project being managed by Black Dog Institute pulling in member expertise as and when required; but there is definitely some potential to do this on a wider scale.

Interestingly, as part of the sign up process, all NSPA members complete and publish an action plan. Suicide Prevention Australia collects similar pledges from its members and those committing to a role on the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention. I like how these are published publicly and will be raising this with the SPA Team on my return to see how we can better promote this.

“Build on increased public and political interest”

With the Australian election looming, I was interested to hear from Rosie about her perspective on the level of public and political interest in mental health and suicide prevention; and what that means in terms of sector projects and priorities.

It is clear, even just during my short time in the UK that the conversation around mental health and suicide prevention has increased dramatically in recent years. Following the 2015 general election, this group and its members worked hard to build this momentum and convert it to real commitment in Government, business and community at a time of political change. While many I talked to admitted that more needed to be done in terms of funding matching the magnitude of the problem (as is the case in Australia), they were positive about the social change in conversation driving tangible change.

I know Suicide Prevention Australia and its members have similar challenges and opportunities on this front in a time of political uncertainty. I hope those holding the purse strings listen to us as they develop their policies. Lives depend on it.

“Provide a platform for community collaboration”

Like Suicide Prevention Australia, NSPA hosts a National Conference for the suicide prevention sector.  This year’s Conference took place in February focused on empowering local action and collaboration to achieve this.

From all reports this was a successful Conference and exchange of lessons learned. We talked at length about the potential for NSPA to more effectively engage those with lived experience of suicide and the general public in future conferences.

I was pleased to share our experiences in this area, specifically around duty of care arrangements such as having a quiet room and counselors available for all delegates.  I was particularly excited to share our offering to the general public at the conference this year, a performance and panel discussion focused on how we speak about suicide, raising awareness in rural communities and how to more effectively encourage help seeking in men.

Watch the performance trailer below and go to the Conference website to find out more. 

Also this week I met with Executive Medical Director Julie Hankin and the Team at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust. They are doing great work to engage a diverse set of stakeholders in increasing safety and prioritising quality assurance. A number of their objectives are focused on mental health and suicide prevention processes and services.

There were so many innovative implementations we discussed that I couldn’t possibly cover in one blog post; from introduction of a street triage program (where mental health nurses ride along with police) to internal campaigns about incident reporting.

With Suicide Prevention Australia and the National Coalition for Suicide Prevention looking at what an Australian framework for zero suicides in healthcare would look like, I was particularly interested to talk with the Team about their quality and safety improvement projects.

As part of the national “Sign up to Safety” Three Year Patient Safety Plan, the Team has made reduction of in-care suicide and self-harm one of six priorities for the Trust. Download a copy of their action plan here.

A big part of this is work to improve data collection and use so as to inform process improvement and assess impact of suicide prevention priorities. This has meant engaging stakeholders across the Trust, partnering with surrounding Trusts and working smarter from a communications perspective to ensure sustainable change is made.

Here are some of my top takeaways from this meeting:

“Start with the interested then fill the gaps”

When looking to recruit cross-divisional clinical working groups to develop action plans for each priority, the Trust Team called for expressions of interest to seek out early adopters rather than assign ‘volunteers’ top down.

For the suicide and self-harm priority this meant they ended up with a group that self identified as wanting to be part of positive change and came from a range of different roles, levels of seniorities and specialties. They then invited people along to fill the gaps in representation.

“It’s not about technology”

Across the Trust, the Team was working with different systems in hospitals, primary care and community. It wasn’t practical (or timely) to wait for an across the board technology upgrade to improve data collected on suicide and self-harm. It was agreed that wasn’t the answer so efforts were focused on how each stakeholder group classified and coded this data as well as processes and policies around what is collected.

Prior to working with Suicide Prevention Australia, I worked with eHealth NSW on introducing electronic medication management in NSW hospitals, so I am all too familiar with issues faced in gathering consistent data that ensures patient safety. Suicide Prevention Australia has also convened the National Committee for Standardised Reporting on Suicide (NCSRS) for a number of years to develop a National Minimum Data Set for similar reasons to the Trust. It is all about the data and how you can achieve timely, accurate, consistent and, most importantly, comparative data. Technology can often help but shouldn’t be seen as the solution.

“Give them a gift”

In a project that is data heavy, think about what outcomes you can provide rather than asking for endless provision of data. It’s all about give and take.

I liked the Trust Team’s approach to thinking of data as a gift; they just have to figure out the most appealing package for a specific team. That is, instead of asking a team to change the way they enter data into a system and report this to management, ask the team what information would be useful to them to make improvements to the work they do. This is a time investment for both sides so why not make every effort to make it practical rather than a tick box process.

The Trust Team is also trying to apply this ‘What’s in it for me?’ approach to their communications on this project. They are using multiple channels for engagement such as posters, eNews and social media. But, what was most interesting is that they are starting to think about how they can incorporate the data they have received into their communications campaign. For example, showing that recording of an incident has led to a substantive change in process that has resulted in increased patient safety.

Many thanks to Executive Medical Director Dr Julie Hankin and the Team at Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust for meeting with me to discuss their work and share lessons we can look to apply in Australia. I am grateful for your candour, practical approach to change and keenness to continue a working relationship across the pond.

Special thanks also to Rosie Ellis and everyone working as part of the National Suicide Prevention Alliance (NSPA) for their time and insights.

As always, if you have any questions or contacts you’d like me to add to my UK meeting schedule this month, please get in touch.

Kim Borrowdale, Head of Communications

Note. This blog has been published as part of Kim’s commitment to sharing lessons from the UK as recipient of an Ian Potter Foundation International Learning and Development Grant. She will also be reporting on findings and observations at the 2016 National Suicide Prevention Conference in Canberra in July.

Read 1 June blog post "National strategy and community action: Top down, bottom up and inbetween" 

Read 21 May blog post "No health without mental health: development sector lessons"

Read 19 May blog post "Give them a gift: Thinking differently about data"

Read 17 May blog post "Somewhere between heartbreak and hope"

Read 12 May blog post "Collaborative working: Moving beyond the willing"

Read 10 May blog post "So what? Translating research into practice"