In our latest blog, Benjamin McElwee explains how the varied role of being an improvement advisor with Healthcare Improvement Scotland has allowed him to improve health and social care in a wide range of ways.

When 90% of healthcare interactions begin and end in primary care, it is a setting with tremendous opportunities for improving population health and delivering on the early intervention and prevention agenda. This is what drew me to the role of improvement advisor in the ihub in the first place.

Before I joined Healthcare Improvement Scotland’s ihub, I worked in the third sector first as a care provider and then in a range of national roles influencing policy and practice. Whilst working for a mental health charity, I had the opportunity to engage more directly with clinicians and care providers and became particularly interested in the ways to affect practice change at the point of care.

I graduated from the Scottish Improvement Leader Programme whilst still working in the third sector, which enhanced my understanding of and passion for quality improvement. The ihub seemed a natural place to further develop and apply these skills.

A varied role where you can bring your strengths

Working within the ihub’s Primary Care Improvement Portfolio, I had the opportunity to support a variety of work across the whole breadth of health and social care in Scotland.  I’ve supported a network of people involved in the redesign of primary care services in their local area to share learning and explore solutions to common challenges. I’ve helped GP practices to triage tasks and navigate people accessing care so they are seen by the right person at the right time in the right place. Working in partnership with colleagues at NHS Education for Scotland (NES), I developed a faculty of professionals (mostly clinical) with expertise in primary care to provide subject matter expertise and support the delivery of the Primary Care Improvement Portfolio’s work.  I’ve also worked with the Royal College of General Practitioners, Scottish Government and NES to co-ordinate the primary care learning system and the delivery of webinars and resources.

Applying and developing a range of skills to a multitude of topics

During my time with the primary care team my work touched on a diverse range of topics including person-centred care planning, different approaches to supporting long-term conditions, telehealth and remote monitoring, medicines in primary care and whole systems approaches.

As well as the variety of topics, the role provides ample opportunities to develop a portfolio of skills beyond quality improvement. This could be through facilitating workshops with clinicians, running focus groups, interviewing people accessing care, engaging with other organisations to collaborate, developing business cases for new pieces of work or supporting the development and delivery of communication strategies.

Due to COVID-19, I also saw the adaptability of colleagues, as the organisation temporarily reconfigured itself to provide more responsive support to the system. During this time I supported the use of a video consulting service within primary care and maternity services, engaging directly with administrative, clinical and support staff to do so.

Improving from the inside as well as the outside

Working within the ihub also provides the opportunity to use quality improvement tools to support internal work both within the portfolio and across the organisation, with a variety of groups looking at internal improvement in areas such as organisational culture, digital ways of working, health and wellbeing, and internal processes. It offers the chance to work with people with a wealth of experience within the organisation, people who have quite often worked across multiple different parts of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, thus exposing you to different working styles, views, capabilities and expertise that can support your development.

Indeed, it is through the generosity of colleagues sharing their experience, expertise and insights that I was able to develop within the primary care team to take on a new role with the Value Management Collaborative as a Senior Improvement Advisor.

For anyone looking to make a difference to health and care in Scotland whilst also developing professionally, a role as an improvement advisor could be for you.  

Benjamin McElwee is an Improvement Advisor within our Primary Care Improvement Portfolio.

More information

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