Do organisations need values and do we need to be able to say what those values are to deliver high quality care?
I have observed that many healthcare workers have a natural cynicism about NHS Trusts developing a set of stated values. It is one of those “soft” management ideas that distracts from what clinicians should be doing. Does writing your values on the Trust Website make you a better trust? Absolutely not. However, all of us would rather that our families were treated by an organisation whose values were focussed on providing the best patient care and which lived up to those values. Values are not about some well-meaning words just printed on stationary but actually about what we believe and how that shapes the way in which we deliver care.
I have seen many examples across the organisation of staff delivering high quality care to patients and service users; you can see immediately the values of the staff. When I read the outcomes of complaints I also see examples were we have not delivered care in keeping with our values as an organisation. I do think that it is a critically important component of our functioning, as a high quality healthcare provider, that we have a shared set of values and that we actively use them to shape the care that we provide.
The next time you go to a clinical area in the organisation ask yourself if I came here for the first time, what would I think the values of the organisation were? It can be a thought provoking exercise, because it can capture what we are doing well but also where we could improve. Our values (to be caring, respectful and inclusive)are part of our culture, and in the end culture trumps everything.