Partnership and innovation at the heart of award-winning learning

Partnerships are at the heart of many award-winning entries. Here, Debbie Carter looks at double gold winner at the TJ Awards 2017 – South of England NHS Mental Health Collaborative.

At the TJ Awards 2017, the South of England NHS Mental Health Collaborative received gold awards in the Best Public Sector and Best Operational Programmes for their multi organisational ‘Collaborative Learning Lab’. 

Working across 17 Mental Health NHS providers in the South of England they successfully engage clinicians and managers and significantly improved capability that translates into measurable, sustainable improvements by encouraging cultural change and inspiring participants to innovate and lead.

By supporting individuals, teams and organisations to build skills and knowledge about quality and safety improvement, the collaboration has created space and time to work on safety issues, and provides opportunities to continually learn from each other.

By providing a new way of thinking and a new way of working – it has changed the way that staff feel about the care they deliver.

As the public sector judges, Graham O’Connell and Tony Shaw commented: “This impressive learning collaboration drove real improvements affecting the health and wellbeing of patients in a challenging culture. They had excellent approaches to cross-organisational learning that led to really valuable, measurable results.”

By providing a new way of thinking and a new way of working – it has changed the way that staff feel about the care they deliver. It means that all members of staff, whatever their role, can contribute to improving patient care.

The Collaborative provides members with an opportunity to share learning. It also runs workshops and learning events, and engages staff to want to make changes. Participants return to their workplace full of energy and enthusiasm for delivering small- scale change, and feel supported in doing so.

Operational judges’ Sati Kaur and David James said: “The South of England Mental Health Collaborative recognised the biggest priorities in their entire organisation and, using empowering ways to get the right results and using lean and collaborative means, they achieved their desired results. This should be an example to the profession, both in terms of focus and employee-centred solutions.”


There are 15 individual provider organisations and five Academic Health Science Networks across the south of England. All were trying to address similar issues in mental health care and failing to make the progress they wanted. While standards of care were good, opportunities existed to further improve quality and safety for patients, carers and staff.

The first few years of the Collaborative were focused on building an evidence base and changing the culture to ensure ideas could be developed. More recently, the Collaborative has started to see the impact these ideas are having as they are established.

Having built the foundations and taught members to share the learning, the pace at which projects are being generated and progressed is increasing – and the potential for mental health services and patients is very exciting.

The Collaborative is giving staff more control, increased leadership skills and huge satisfaction in delivering better care to patients. Members are also spreading their learning as the NHS is seeing initiatives adopted in other wards and organisations.

To enter your best work into the TJ Awards 2018 click here the closing date for entries is Wednesday 18 April so don’t delay!


About the author

Debbie Carter is editor-in-chief of TJ.


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