“There is nothing new under the sun” - Ecclesiastes 1:4-11.
If any of you have read one of my blogs before you will have realised that I am a huge fan of books.
The blog I am writing today is also about a book, but more than that, it is about an idea. The idea is simple, practical and nothing especially new. It is an idea that many call common sense but few call common practice. It is an idea that has been used in every sort of organisation for over 20 years. It is an idea that needs to be applied on a greater scale to the health service.
The idea is not new. How the book is written is not new. But how the book explains the idea and applies it to healthcare is new and it will change how you view the health service. It is a revolutionary book.
The book is called “Pride and Joy” by Alex Knight view here.
How I came to read this book is a classic story of a Brownian motion (a chance encounter), leading to an altered life trajectory. The summer before starting medical school I was working as a labourer cleaning out a chaps guttering. During a tea break in the hot summer sun he asked me what I was going to study at Uni. As soon as I said “Medicine”, he said “then you need to come see this”.
He took me into his office and showed me a presentation he had given the year before about a hospital in Ireland. He was a management consultant and had been applying a management theory he had learned while working in industry. With his help the hospital had managed to reduce waiting times by a huge amount. The management theory he was applying is called "The Theory of Constraints" (TOC).
I thought that his presentation was fascinating and I could not understand why it was not more widely applied. I went away and read the books he suggested and promised that I would stay in touch.
Four years later and I had been exposed to enough of the clinical environment to realise that something needs to change in how the health service is run. To this end, a couple of colleagues and myself founded the Birmingham Medical Leadership society (BMLS) with help from the Faculty of Medical Leadership and Management (FMLM). The aim of which is to help healthcare students and professionals understand the systems they are working in.
The first thing I did after founding the society was contact that friendly management consultant and ask him for his advice on what we should cover. He immediately put me in contact with QFI consulting, @QFIConsulting.
This small firm has been working with hospitals all over the world to implement this simple theory called the Theory of Constraints. They were absolutely fantastic and within 2 emails had promised to come to Birmingham to run a completely free workshop for our society’s members.
The workshop was on March 8th at Birmingham Medical School. Through our society’s contacts we managed to encourage 15 local students to take a revision break to attend the workshop on a sunny Saturday. We were also able to find 11 local registrars/ consultants who wanted to improve their management knowledge. It just so happens that the chap leading this workshop was Mr Alex Knight. The workshop sparked all of our interests and when he mentioned that he had just written a book, pretty much the whole crowd asked for a copy.
When I got my copy, I thought I would leave it to read for after my end of year exams. However, I got very bored a few days before the first written paper and needed a revision break – so I decided that reading a few pages here and there wouldn't hurt. Trouble was that this book was a page turner and I soon couldn't put it down.
I won’t spoil the book for all of you out there, who I hope will read it. I shall just say that if you are interested in healthcare, training to work in healthcare, already work in healthcare or just want a riveting book to read by the pool then you really should read it. The basic premise is that healthcare is getting more expensive and yet there appears to be an increase in the number of healthcare crises'. So if more money isn't making healthcare better, then maybe it is time to try a different approach.
“Marketing is what you do when your product is no good” – Edward Land, inventor of the Polaroid Camera.
Mr Land was a wise man and I can happily say that I have no conflict of interest in writing this blog. I have not been promised anything in return for this glowing review. The only reason that I have written this is because I believe it is important for people to have a greater understanding of how the health service works and what we can do to make it even better!
As a very junior healthcare professional, there is not much that we can do on a practical level but that does not mean we are impotent. We can still share best practice and show our enthusiasm for new approaches.
Healthcare students and professionals, if you care about how your service works and you want to help make it better. Please find a copy of this book and read it. It won’t take you long and I promise that it will have an impact on you.
NB - Note all of the folded down corners. These pages have something insightful that I want to read again... there are a lot of folded pages!