I am about to drive up to Crewe. It’s my home town and where a little bit of my heart is. But I only really go there for the people.

Mostly it is for friends and family. But often, in the winter, it is for 11 people in red and white too 😉 This time is different, though.

Tomorrow should be my Mum and Dad’s golden wedding anniversary. I say ‘should’ because my Dad died two years ago from liver cancer.

In the two weeks from his diagnosis to his death, it was only about the people: my mum, brother and myself bereft and helpless, the amazing doctors and Macmillan team who could do little but show unrelenting compassion, the friends and extended family who gathered around to support, and of course, my Dad who jollied and joked like always, meekly accepting his fate and enjoying every last second.

A tragic and difficult time that most of us will face at one time or other. But we survive it because of people.

Meet the team

In our working lives it is only ever about the people, too. The degree to which we succeed and fail can feel dependent on a multitude of factors: the budget, the quality and commitment of the supplier, the organisation’s willingness to change, the software design and functionality, the infrastructure…

But when you peel it all away, it really boils down to one thing; people.

As many folks know, I have headed up the Connecting Care programme in Bristol for the past few years, trying to join together the health and care records in our various silo systems to create a shared record.

A laudable ambition that seeks to ensure our clinical and care professionals have all the information they need at their fingertips, so that the public we serve get the very best care we can provide. It’s why we are here.

I adore this project. It’s why I come to work, and it’s rewarding and worthwhile. But I also enjoy it, and the reason I enjoy it is because of the people. Let me tell you about a few of them.

Jocelyn is our programme manager. She is one of those people you meet and soon think “surely you are too good to be working in the NHS.”

She is ridiculously well-organised, hard-working, visionary and talented. She commands huge respect and loyalty from her team. I call her the ‘dream converter’ because she takes my wildly ambitious ramblings and converts them into reality.

Natasha is one of Jocelyn’s team. She leads on our benefits work, but that does not begin to do justice to her role. Natasha is optimism personified, she is energy unbowed.

She is ‘no-job-too-small’ and ‘no-task-too-tedious’ if it gets us one step forward. She personifies the core team driving this project; they live, breathe, act, serve and deliver Connecting Care in all they do. They are brilliant!!

Meet more of the team

Steve is chief information officer at one of our local hospital trusts, one of our biggest. He has a mind the size of Jupiter and a generosity to match.

Projects like Connecting Care are made up of multiple organisations with multiple agendas. They succeed because people pull together across organisational boundaries because they truly believe in the ambition. Steve epitomises that belief, routinely battling inside his organisation for the greater good of the city itself.

Mike is a GP, but not a regular ‘nine to five’ GP (I expect to get complaint letters about the hours ;-)) Mike is an out-of-hours GP working through the night to serve people at their most vulnerable and scared.

He is often faced with making tricky clinical decisions while colleagues sleep, so information about the patient is vital to his job. Mike champions our project, drives engagement from his clinical colleagues, opens doors to new data sharing, creates demand for new functionality, and tells rich and inspiring stories to keep the team going.

When I feel my energy levels falling and start to question how much longer I can do this for, I speak to Mike; who administers adrenaline in conversational form.

Mike #2, Tracey and Alan lead our engagement from local authorities. They politely, patiently and skilfully help us NHS amateurs navigate the world of social care.

They suppress their frustration at our NHS-centric language, instead focussing on the partnership and the opportunity it brings. Health and care integration is not a science, or a theory, or a formula you can apply. It is behaviour, between real people in real life on a daily basis. It’s what these folks do.

Not a tech project, not a change project, a people project

Every few months, the Connecting Care team go for a curry. Two poppadoms, chicken jalfrezi and garlic naan for me, the food of heroes 😉 This is an evening of laughs and jokes amongst a group of friends.

But this friendship is quite unique; it’s been formed around a job-of-work, around a project, around the whiteboard in heated debate, dispute and ultimately agreement. It’s a genuine bond and it is beautiful.

Our project could be described as a technology project and it is by many. That’s kinda valid as some pretty fancy tech sits at its heart. Or it could be described a transformational change project. That’s kinda true too, as what we do is transforming health and care and changing the way it works.

But I think I prefer to describe it as a ‘people’ project. It is a small group of people, trying to make the working lives of a bigger group of people better, so they can serve an even bigger group of people with the health care they need. It’s only ever about the people.