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Airedale NHS Trust reinforces commitment to Lean working practices

Virtual College (Lean Healthcare Academy) : 19 February, 2008  (New Product)
Airedale NHS Trust is to step up delivery of ‘Lean’ principles that have already transformed the trust’s hospital working practices, reduced waiting times and improved patient care and safety.
Sue Speak, matron for hospital midwifery at Airedale General Hospital, has begun a 12-month secondment as head of lean improvement. Speak has been closely involved with Lean since its inception at Airedale Hospital last year and her brief is to roll out Lean more widely across the trust and healthcare communities.

Widely used in the manufacturing sector to streamline operational procedures and boost productivity, Lean thinking has been adapted with great success within Airedale NHS Trust.

The Lean approach brings together both hospital staff and external stakeholders such as GPs and health workers to first study patients pathways, then identify and eliminate wasteful practices.

Airedale NHS Trust has been working hand-in-hand with the Ilkley-based Lean Healthcare Academy to put in place a series of pilot projects through a new training facility based at Airedale Hospital.

The first, implemented in the hospital’s midwifery unit, saw waiting times for scans for pregnant women with undersize baby concerns reduced from up to six weeks to within 24 hours. A second project resulted in the time span for referral to diagnosis for patients with suspected bowel cancer halved from 81 days to 41 days.

Speak explained: “Lean has made a major impact – and a big difference - in a number of areas at the hospital. We are now looking to roll it out not only across Airedale NHS Trust, but also to other NHS Trusts and the wider health care communities in general.

“Lean is all about improvement. You can look at a particular process and redesign it so it is much more efficient, both for staff and patients. It is about communicating what can be achieved in an individual department and we have had some fantastic feedback from staff about the benefits that have been seen.”

Sue Speak is also working closely alongside Airedale’s ‘Lean Champions’ – a ten-strong cross-section of Trust staff who was among the first in the UK healthcare sector to gain the Business Improvement Techniques (BIT) NVQ. This, too, is delivered widely in manufacturing.

The second cohort of Airedale Lean Champions – Sue Speak is among them – is currently working towards the BIT NVQ, with a third group scheduled to undertake training in April. “These people will be a valuable resource for those who want to undertake a particular Lean project around the Trust,” she commented.

Sue Speak, who will also be attending a number of high profile Lean-related regional and national conferences, is now working from Airedale Hospital’s in-house Lean Healthcare Academy Training Centre, from where she and academy partners have delivered a week-long series of seminars and workshops designed to both introduce and raise awareness of Lean thinking among hospital staff.

Speak added: “We still have a great deal of work to do, but we have some superb tools at our disposal and we are getting there. Not all projects are successful, but we now have a major opportunity to build on our achievements to date.”

The Lean Healthcare Academy delivers a range of services, including staff training, development and implementation support, complemented by a range of flexible online e-learning programmes. It is increasingly working with healthcare sector providers across the north.

Lean Healthcare Academy manager Sarah Ellis commented: “The Healthcare Commission is currently urging boards of all NHS trusts in England to heed the lessons from serious failings in healthcare services.”

“It is stressing the importance of good leadership, effective management and systematic use of information that will enable NHS Trusts to put systems in place that can help turn their vision of quality care into a reality on the wards. Lean encompasses all these principles. It is a making a real difference to our member Trusts.”
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