NHS IMAS offers National Health Service (NHS) organisations that need short or medium term support, the means to access the management expertise that exists throughout the NHS.

At Durham and Tees SHA, I was instrumental in the acute services review work for Hartlepool and Stockton and am used to bringing people together to work through complex issues, which was good experience for this assignment.

At the end of three months my team and I had:

  • an agreed model of care that was supported by the Specialist Commissioning Group
  • documented renal transplant pathways of care
  • put clinical governance and operational management in place to deliver a safe, high level quality and sustainable service

While these were my objectives I wouldn’t have achieved them without the commitment and co-operation of the team at the hospital.

The first lesson I learned was to ensure the projects are appropriately scoped. It’s easy to get drawn into other elements of service change if you don’t do this at the outset because organisations tend to have a range of bespoke and in house developments running in tandem.

It sounds fundamental and in many ways it is but this learning has helped me back in my workplace. Scoping brings a clarity and shared understanding which is extremely helpful as you work through the project and it stops people getting side tracked.

One of the biggest challenges I faced was to arrive in the organisation, somewhat unannounced. While conversations had taken place at a senior level it sometimes hadn’t reached the parts it needed to. So a bit of my time was spent smoothing the way and explaining I was there to help, not criticise or hinder. It’s about trust really, and if I were to do this type of project again I’d be a bit more particular about asking if the people I’m working with know I’m coming and understand my role.

Working with the hospital team one day a week posed an extra challenge for me as basic things like being able to get to see people on that day and making sure I spent the day adding value to the team was a major hurdle. Getting into people’s diaries can be a challenge in your own workplace but when you’re miles away with just one day to pack everything in it becomes fairly crucial. We got over that as the time went on though and I think the success of the project speaks for itself.

I’m extremely grateful to have had the opportunity to be involved in a piece of work like this. Giving a fresh pair of eyes to an issue in another organisation has helped me look at issues in the trust in a different way.

It was also a great opportunity to use my skills and abilities to help someone else. I’m incredibly grateful to the team at the Trust and for my director for supporting me. I’d have no hesitation in recommending an NHS IMAS assignment as part of a manager’s personal and professional development.