Fri 11th December 2015 / 1:00pm to 4:15pm / Whitespace, Norloch House, 36 King's Stables Road, Edinburgh EH1 2EU

Conversations about data about patient flow

Here are some of the ways we're trying to get the forum right

I've been preoccupied for some time with the idea that when it comes to getting data embedded into decision-making, it's not just a question of identifying the right data to look at, or even the right way to analyse that data; it's also about finding—or setting up—the right forums in which to discuss the data.

"Moving about room only" at an NHS Lothian Flowopoly event: 17 October 2014

Flow Data Symposium is an attempt at dealing with all of these things, but I want to focus here on the forum aspect. What we're doing with Flow Data Symposium is we're putting a lot of thought and attention into the business of creating a setting in which patient flow can be discussed meaningfully and fruitfully. In particular, we're trying to do three things.

The first is that we're doing our best to make sure the conversation is truly multi-disciplinary. We've invited a rich mix of doctors, nurses, AHPs, managers, information professionals and others to Flow Data Symposium in the hope that we can get a wide-angle, multi-perspective view of the world. Moreover, we haven't invited just NHS people; we've also invited a few folk from outside the health service to see if a completely different Weltanschauung might help move the discussion in new directions.

Secondly, as well as representing the disciplines and professions, we're also trying to represent the different levels of the "food chain". We think it's important to have executive directors and senior consultants discussing patient flow alongside people who actually work at the actual coalface. We want the people who inhabit the unscheduled care world to take part in this conversation as well as the people who are responsible for managing it. So we've invited senior and junior (and all points in between) to this symposium.

Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, we're giving thought to the layout of the room and what the meeting space itself might do to the dynamics of the conversation. There'll be some experimentation going on here. For example, there won't be any seats at Flow Data Symposium. I'd say it's going to be "standing room only" except we don't expect people to be doing much standing around either; instead, we expect people to be moving about. The informality this will engender will—we hope—contribute significantly to the quality of the conversation.

"Moving about room only" at an NHS Lothian Flowopoly event: 17 October 2014

Another guiding principle is that props will work as a way of facilitating conversations about the complex patient flow issues under review. So we'll be using Flowopoly as a prop (although—obviously—I think there is a lot more to Flowopoly than it being just a "prop"). Flowopoly will act as a brooding, physical, tangible presence in the room that people can point at in order to help them get their messages across.

Another principle we want to enact is that Flow Data Symposium will be a podium-free zone. Yes, we'll have a chairperson. And yes, we've recruited an expert panel to help shape and guide the conversation. But these luminaries will not be seated on a stage at the front, with things like platforms and lecterns setting them apart from the rest of the symposium participants. No, the chairperson and the expert panel will be positioned as equal partners in the conversation, milling around with everyone else. Yes, they might find it just a bit easier to catch the chairperson's eye. And yes, they therefore might get first shot at the microphones. But apart from that they'll just be interspersed with everyone else. Flow Data Symposium is going to be democratic.

And a last guiding principle about the meeting space is the mood we want people to be in while they're talking about patient flow. If you look up the word "symposium" in a dictionary you'll find that it doesn't just mean a gathering of people to discuss something; it also means "a drinking party". Which explains why—as well as serving food on arrival at 1pm—we'll also be serving wine from 4:15 onwards, once the main business of the afternoon is completed. In the hope that this will lift people's spirits on what may well be a cold, dark winter's afternoon.

[2 November 2015]