We recently invited Rob Walsh, Joint Chief Executive of North East Lincolnshire Council and Clinical Commissioning Group, to join us for our first virtual event, Transitions, to share his experiences of combining two organisations in 2020 and creating a unified COVID response to support citizens.
In 2007, North East Lincolnshire introduced the care trust plus, one of the first of its kind in England. It was a big step for the council, to delegate the commissioning and provision of Adult Social Care into the NHS. In return, public health responsibilities were delegated into the Council well before the health and social care act of 2012.
So even way back then, the appetite for change was evident and the drive to secure improved health and care outcomes for our population was palpable. Fast forward to the creation of clinical commissioning groups, CCGs, and then three years ago the next step in the evolution of our local relationship and our journey formation of the so-called Council and CCG union.
Creating The Union
From day one of The Union’s life, the question was really looking through the health and wellbeing lens, how do we combine our efforts, our capacity and our resources to best contribute to and facilitate local economic growth? Strength and resilience in the community and place wider determinants of health very much at the heart of our joint agenda?
Structurally, we formed one leadership team across both organisations and in governance terms we formed a Union Board, combining really importantly clinical and political leadership to lead the place.
That ambition, that common purpose and a long-standing close relationship across the NHS and local government here in North East Lincolnshire has really been put to the test. The Union certainly has been put to the test over the last eight months of this pandemic.
In my experience of leading change, and like all of you, I’m certainly still learning. I’ve always been a firm believer in keeping it simple, we expended a lot of energy in the early days of the Union seeking to fuse two very distinct cultures, the council and the NHS. With the benefit of hindsight, I’ll be frank, I think that was the wrong approach, at least for us.
What we soon realised is that the one thing that binds each organisation above all else was our commitment to place. That has the immediate effect of shifting both the tone and the nature of the engagement, and the change journey and it also helps to build trust and confidence.
We are at the end of the day two organisations covering coterminous geography serving the same population. How do we galvanize that collective commitment to our place to shape a way of working and an operating model that gets both the best out of our people but also gives them something to believe and remain steadfastly focused on? Especially in this really challenging environment, we’re currently operating in.
The extent to which everyone was on the bus when it came to forming one leadership team was at times questionable. That wasn’t born of malice or seeking to undermine either organisation, but simply because we were stuck in that loop of trying to fuse two very distinct cultures. What I’ve seen in the last eight months however is a complete reset, both in terms of individual focus and collective endeavour. For want of a better phrase, the fog has well and truly cleared.