The complexity of our society and our professional contribution to it can be at the same time confusing and straightforward. On the one hand if we all are the very best we can be, health and services improve; however the opportunity for each profession to be the very best that they can, at times, feel elusive. None the less, I have no doubt of what is needed of us now; leadership and creating the conditions for maximising the contribution of all – whether that’s individuals in their own self-management, or professionals in whatever role they have.
AHPs have many unique selling points – if it’s OK to have many unique points. But the nature and diversity of the allied health professions I believe, means that they have the opportunity to contribute to improving the nation’s health and well-being and deliver outstanding care and services, in a way that no other professions can.
Personal leadership to navigate through our changing landscape can bring unexpected opportunities.
For those readers who know me, you will know that I have been on a personal journey of discovery over the last year. Having yo-yo dieted for almost all of my adult life, I made a decision that I could no longer ask others to do what I was not prepared to do myself. In developing the Nursing Vision 2030, the issue of nurses’ health and well-being was highlighted, including the level of obesity in nurses. That, with the development of the diet and obesity strategy made me reflect on my personal responsibility to look after my own health in the way that I was expecting others to do for theirs. In Einstein’s words
‘Setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.’
So my eating less, eating healthier and moving more, journey began. For most readers (and the dietitians and physios in particular), you’ll not be surprised that 7 stones later, I arrived at a healthy weight. The dialogue this has supported – about the importance of nutrition and physical activity – for many health reasons has been fantastic.
And of course, AILP has at its heart keeping the population active. Attendance at body balance classes became essential for me after Sarah Mitchell (@SarahAHPRehab) outlined the life curve and the importance of flexibility (to cut toe nails!!) and eating well. So that personal leadership journey of AHPs, not just in personal health and well-being, but supporting the population to be the very best they can be, has shone across many areas of the country this year.
Most recently, Lynne Douglas (@lynneahpd) hosted a showcase event in NHS Lothian where AHPs participating in the leadership programme had a QI project aligned to AILP. It’s these small steps that help create the tapestry of just what the AHP contribution can and will be. However, just as the conditions and climate have to be right for people to make the maximum contribution that they can, so must the profession – and in particular the leaders of professions, be able to clearly articulate the benefit of the professional contribution and be ready to fill whatever vacuum there may be – or offer to provide solutions to whatever thorny problem needs to be resolved.
One great example of where Allied Health Leadership has come into its own – has been the MSK programme of work where there can be direct access to physiotherapy, along with triage and self-management – realistic medicine in practice (and ahead of its time). In the coming years, as our commitment to shift the balance of care, support more people in self-management of chronic long term conditions, and also in prevention and public health, I believe AHP leadership is even more important. A real opportunity to clearly articulate (and point to the very real examples of where outcomes have been transformed as a consequence of AHP leadership and intervention) what the AHP contribution can be. One such example is that within the proposed new GMS contract, the opportunity for physiotherapists to be key members of the multi-disciplinary team and further build on the MSK work is there.
As the Scottish people move forwards in their quest to better health and quality of life, the opportunity to shift the paradigm has never been clearer for AHPs. We know the valuable contribution that can be made across all settings, and that supporting prevention, self-management and enablement can be catalysed by strong and innovative AHP leadership. So one of my wishes is that the AHP voice rings clearly and influences and shapes change in a way that truly maximises the AHP contribution.
Chief Nursing Officer for Scotland