Jump to content
  • What could Appreciative Governance start to look like in the NHS? A blog by Katy Fisher



    In this blog, Katy Fisher, Senior Nurse Quality & Improvement at NHS Professionals, explains how she became involved in Appreciative Inquiry and asks the question: what could Appreciative Governance start to look like in the NHS and what small steps can we all do to achieve that together? 


    I have spent nearly ten years in the world of clinical governance, patient safety, quality and risk, and, despite that, I am a humanist at heart. I am a Registered Nurse, but beyond the bedside. I have investigated harm and adverse events but believe that human beings are inherently good and seek meaningful connection and contribution. I am a collection of taboos. 

    I have been given wide and varied feedback in the past. I need to be ‘more politically savvy’; I need to ‘understand the complexities in the room’; I don’t ‘fit the governance mould’. I took all feedback at face value and reflected mindfully on all. 

    However, I am not like the structures I had studied for so long. I see the beauty, dignity and grace in not only a patient suffering from physical and mental illness, or a loved one in distress feeling helpless in a system that has failed their beautiful parent, but also the staff members who continually create safety for their patients despite structures or processes that potentially hinder it. 

    Over time, the world of patient safety, although fascinating and crucial, started to weigh heavy on my shoulders, and also on the teams around me. I started to notice that the humanity was being missed to fit the existing governance structure.

    I began to seek out ways that I could lift the spirits of staff that were witness to incident after incident of harm. I found ‘searching for the good’, which I later learned was called Appreciative Inquiry. 

    I initially treated this as a beautiful side-line to celebrate the good whilst I prioritised the essential processes examining the poor care. However, the two started to intertwine. During a comprehensive StEIS (a system used to report and monitor serious incidents in the NHS) investigation commissioned to review the potential harm caused during a critical incident in the midst of Covid, I requested that a simple addition be made to the terms of referenceto ‘review what went well’ in the same period. 

    I built an audit reviewing the care within the emergency department. Within that audit, I created a mandatory field asking ‘what went well?’ that the auditors could not bypass. I expected from this to find one or two examples of potential Appreciative Inquiry, but there were so many examples of great care. Let me note here that great care does not have to be grand gestures such as bringing your patient’s pet horse to their death bed (although this was a wonderful moment). Great care is also the great unspokenwork as done that led to the patient's condition or mood improving. The everyday care that is neither studied nor often openly acknowledged. The many Appreciative Inquiries from this piece of work recognised at least 10 to 15 individual staff members involved in each patient’s care that allowed them to get home safely and well. 

    What I also found was that the learning from the harm also mirrored the learning from good; NEWS2 response times, pastoral care, timely escalation and multi-disciplinary input. The study of good led to the same conclusions. So, did that mean that an appreciative and compassionate stance could bring real results? I thought it was at least enough to lean into the potential.

    I have since then contributed to books and spoken publicly at events regarding Appreciative Inquiry, but the question is still posed… what does Appreciative Governance look like as an organisational system? Is there a way to create a governance structure focusing on the human, living system that is the NHS; studying, monitoring and learning from individual and team’s strengths as much as the weaknesses in the same system. 

    The Patient Safety Incident Response Framework (PSIRF) has brought us much nearer than we have ever been, utilising Human Factors processes, reviewing ‘work as done’, employing after action reviews, supporting the staff involved in adverse events and involving all stakeholders, including, essentially, the patients themselves. However, this is still founded upon a deficit-based approach leading to a sigh of relief when there is no harm found, rather than wonder and awe when we see the thousands of interconnected miracles delivered every day. 

    I can reference numerous studies and reiterate hundreds of stories where people have learned from the good, but I am looking now to you, my esteemed colleagues and peers in the trenches of patient safety, quality, governance and care to askwhat could Appreciative Governance start to look like in the NHS… and what small steps can we all do to achieve that together? 

    I see you carrying that weight, and I truly appreciate that you are doing it every day. Let’s build the structures to cherish what we see every day and learn and grow from the strengths of our living, human system. 

    Further resouces on the hub:

    About the Author

    Katy Fisher is currently co-host of Caring Corner podcast and website and Senior Nurse (Quality and Improvement) at NHS Professionals. After starting her career as an Adult Registered Nurse practicing in acute stroke, acute neurology, complex discharge planning and general medical nursing, she progressed to lead clinical governance, quality and risk management frameworks in acute hospitals in the Greater Manchester region. Her main interests are psychological safety as a system and creating learning and improvement processes within the healthcare setting.

    Katie has led acute patient safety collaboratives, conducted complex multi-disciplinary After Action Reviews and has led numerous high level patient safety investigations focussing on both Safety II and Safety II in formal clinical governance structures.

    She is passionate about making patient safety theory and methodology meaningful and appreciative in a frontline healthcare setting.

    1 reactions so far


    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Create an account or sign in to comment

    You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

    Create an account

    Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

    Register a new account

    Sign in

    Already have an account? Sign in here.

    Sign In Now
  • Create New...