If there’s one thing change agent and recently knighted Sir David Dalton wants delegates to take from his APAC presentation, it’s that change is possible.
Speaking down the phone from the UK at 10pm on a Friday night, his enthusiasm is unwavering, despite the awkward hour.
“Improving outcomes for patients can be done. It requires a real clarity of purpose, a disciplined approach to method, and frequently requires the engagement of all the people.”
While at APAC, Sir David, who was knighted in 2014 for his services to the NHS in quality improvement and patient safety, will present a session on Pioneering Integrated Care in England.
He will also be interviewed by CMDHB chief executive Geraint Martin, as one of a panel of several ‘great leaders’, although he is unlikely to refer to himself in that way.
“It’s always best for others to comment,” he says when asked about his strengths.
Under Sir David’s leadership, however, the Salford Royal NHS Foundation, of which he is chief executive, transformed from a zero-rated hospital to one of the top performers in England.
“I’d like to think that people would say that I take a deep interest in the services that we provide, and the people who provide them, that I care deeply that the services we provide are the best that they possibly can be,” he says.
Today, as well as having achieved vast improvement, Salford Royal holds the admirable ambition of becoming the safest organisation in the NHS, although Sir David acknowledges, perfection is unattainable.
“Healthcare is a risky business. It is never going to be risk free. The job of a health organisation is to support their staff to have awareness about the risk and to do all they possibly can to minimise it. You can have an ambition to have zero harm but it’s not one of those things that will ever be achieved.”
To be successful, a health organisation needs a mindset that change is entirely possible, and also a mindset of high reliability, he says.
“Improvement has to be enduring so the benefits are always reliable.”
Good health leaders must be authentic, clear about their improvement goals and offer a transparent way to measure them.
The best health leaders, he says, are the ones who hand over the job of improvement to the people on the frontline – the people who know what the impediments to improvement are, and whether a change in practice will create a change in outcome.
Sir David says APAC stands out from other conferences because delegates want to contribute as much as they want to listen. He’s looking forward to doing both.
“There’s an awful lot going on in New Zealand – it’s doing some fabulous things.”
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