Change is for the better, but a quieter life has its attractions

In Devon, we are experiencing change not as evenly spaced, one-off events but seemingly as a perpetual activity. Such times leave little opportunity for reflection but, when it does present itself (usually at 2am), one tends to ponder on the impact that working in such a climate has on its managers, staff and, ultimately, users.

For the past 10 months, we have experienced “modernisation”. September 2006 began with a large internal re-organisation largely affecting my level of management and those above. The outcome saw the loss of several senior managers. The impetus for this restructure came from the need for the organisation to save money by cutting management costs.

Clearly, living, working and experiencing this process was a challenge for those not directly affected, and painful for those it did touch. It is fair to say that such a reformation has its casualties, not all of whom will have left the employment of the department. What price disaffection? As managers we all recognise the need to operate within our means and thus can sympathise with the “cause”, but one is also left to consider the operational cost of such a large transformation.

Certainly, maintaining any kind of status quo through such a process was quite tough. But it really should be said that an organisation must cut its cloth accordingly. And when the government is less than generous with its allocation of funds, this may lead to the creation of a two- rather than three-piece suit!

After a long build-up, February 2007 saw the introduction of a new electronic social care records (ESCR) system. This is a significant event and one that ushers in a new era for social and health care communication, recording and responsibility.

Front-line workers are now ultimately accountable for the direct input of data into our new system. This will take some time to assimilate. Managing this change has been tough, even though our staff are coping well. Balancing the need to maintain services, morale and a sense of perspective at such times would challenge anyone. And at times like these, we surely earn our pay – despite what our critics may say.

As with all such changes, the system is not quite as “intuitive” as we would like it to be, and the disconnection between designer and fieldwork staff, members and managers is blinding in some areas. However, we will persevere. And I am confident that ESCR will soon become another facet of our interesting and varied daily working lives.

Let it be said that change comes with challenges, both positive and negative. Perhaps one’s view on whether the glass is half full or half empty at such times depends as much on what is experienced as it does on personal perspective. Perhaps it is just too simple to blame the staff if they do not co-operate enthusiastically about the prospect of yet another episode of change.

Around the corner lurks the spectre of another change, or punctuation point, on the continuum of modernisation. We are about to reconfigure the structure now in place for contact, assessment and review. The new arrangement should lead to process, assessment, commissioning and review enhancements that will benefit our users, carers and the public.

Whoever said that a change is as good as a rest? A period of idleness sounds like heaven to me.

Giles Gardner is operations manager, older people and physical disabilities, Devon

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