Blog 2. – People and Roles

By Karl Witty, Development Worker  – Local Care Partnerships

This post is about us, the people in the health and care system, and how roles and workplace culture affects how we view each other.

Looking back, when we started to think about our career options, it’s likely that our focus was on the impact we wanted to have as people; we wanted to do something good.  Whatever career path we would chose, we would hold onto our strong values, our ambitions and our core goals.

Back then we probably saw the world from a ‘real persons’ perspective. We saw injustice and inequalities, we empathised with people and communities who experienced disadvantage. We got frustrated when ‘the health and care system’ didn’t work as well as it should.

Sometimes we may assign blame to those people who we felt had power to change the system or deliver their work more effectively.  We asked questions such as, ‘why is there so much paperwork?’, ‘why don’t they talk to each other?’, ‘why don’t they provide care in a joined-up way?’ The system was far from perfect, but we were clear what the issues were, and we had the passion, knowledge and skills to make it a little better.

Then we chose our career path (or more likely we fell into it). We started working in the health and care system; we held on to our values, and motivation to change things for the better; but we found out that things were more complicated than we thought.  Some of the people we assumed were part of the problem, actually shared our values and were working really hard to tackle inequalities, but didn’t have the power to make a real difference.

We started to see some value in all the bureaucracy which we previously thought was stifling creativity and innovation.  We realised that the language that we thought was just ‘jargon’ was sometimes required, because people’s lives are complex and so are the solutions.  We even started using some of the language ourselves. We started to speak to others who understood ‘our’ language.

We wanted to innovate, but the demands on our time were so great, and resources were so limited; it was hard enough following our normal routine, never mind trying new ways of working.  We sought help from our immediate colleagues, because they spoke the same language, they understood our challenges… we didn’t have the time or headspace to reach out to people in other organisations; after all they were ‘over there’ and they spoke a different language.  We could refer people to their service, but weren’t sure if we trusted them.

This is a story which I sure many of in the health and care field can recognise, whatever sector you work in.  It illustrates that even with the best intentions we can become socialised into working in a limited way, viewing our methods of working as the ‘right way’, and not acknowledging the opportunities we access through different forms of knowledge and practice.

During my brief time in post, I’ve had lots of conversations with colleagues in the third sector about involvement in the LCPs, skilled and intelligent colleagues who have amassed great knowledge and built strong relationships with the people who connect with their activities.

Despite this, some have struggled to justify their presence at the meetings,  as one colleague told me, ‘if I attend the meeting, I have to close the office’ another said, ‘they use language which I don’t understand’,  a third colleague told me ‘we need something to get people talking and offering information, actions and solutions’. It’s clear that there are barriers, imposed by roles and ways of working.

It’s easy to view people within third sector as being ‘different’ to people who work in the NHS, Social Care, or other statutory services.  Sure, sectors and workplaces have different ways of working, different languages, systems and processes, which we as individuals and groups can internalise; but the vast majority of these colleagues are operating with the same values and seeking to achieve common goals.  We share values, but the system drives us apart.

Local Care Partnerships, are an opportunity to develop a common understanding of the world, develop a shared way of working which views differences; different skills and resources as complimentary assets and something which can be used to enhance health and care in communities, to better meet the needs of people.  But, in order to make them work we need to acknowledge power imbalances imposed by roles and seek ways to achieve equitable and mutually respectful working relations.

It’s not going to be easy, but focusing on the shared values that we as people hold, not the roles we inhabit is a good start.

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Read Local Care Partnerships Blog 1. – Introductions