Join 65,000 NHS staff and associates around the country as they take action of their choosing to mark the first NHS Change day. Helen Bevan and colleagues explain

History tells us that in situations of revolution and radical change, a specific phenomenon is often observed: the emergence of a group of young leaders who are dissatisfied with the status quo and the current pace of reform.

They take their place at the vanguard of change and are a critical group for making change happen. This was certainly the case before 1948 when disgruntled young medics with a vision to transform healthcare delivery played a vital role in mobilising their colleagues for the revolutionary new NHS system.

It’s happening again. Clinicians and managers currently in their 20s and 30s will be the generation of leaders who have to deliver the deep-seated changes required by the health and care system over the next 20 years, if we are to ensure universal healthcare free at the point of delivery continues.

‘The aim is for this to be the single largest simultaneous improvement event in the history of the NHS, and for it to become annual’

And a group of these young leaders and clinicians are stepping up to be at the forefront of change now and launching the very first “NHS Change Day” on 13 March 2013.

Extraordinary moment

They are seeking to harness the creativity and energy of people who work for and with the NHS in a single day of collective action, and the aim is to mobilise 65,000 people – 1,000 for each year since the NHS was established.

Participants are being asked to take an action of their choosing on 13 March that will improve the experience and outcomes for people who use NHS services, their families and/or their carers and NHS staff themselves. The themes are improving quality, spreading good practice, building awareness and being innovative. Here are some examples of action already planned:  

  • A GP surgery will set up a “visibility wall” showing information such as patient satisfaction survey results, compliments and complaints, number of appointments offered, waiting times, achievements against the quality and outcomes framework, patient did not attend rates and so on, as part of a strategy for quality improvement.
  • A clinical commissioning group will invite clinicians in training to spend the day there, to learn about and contribute to its quality improvement strategy.
  • A group of hospital porters will ask some specific experience questions of everyone they transport that day and make recommendations for improvement at the end.

The aim is for this to be the single largest simultaneous improvement event in the history of the NHS, and for it to become an annual event.

This is an extraordinary moment in the history of the NHS. If we wait for the change mechanisms of the system (financial incentives, reforming structures, performance management) to work through, the changes may not happen quickly enough or produce the desired results.

Collective commitment

Every one of us has a choice; we can wait for other people with power to make changes or we can create the power for change by joining with others to take action that makes a difference, improving the experience and outcomes of care and shaping the future.

Large-scale improvement is possible in the NHS and the best way to do it is through collective commitment. NHS Change Day is about making big change happen, not just thinking about it or analysing it or suggesting how to do it.

It’s still very early days in planning NHS Change Day but the response has been really encouraging. The most common piece of feedback is “why hasn’t anyone thought of doing this before?” There is a website where you can sign up to receive details. Already a number of NHS leaders, commissioners and providers have committed their whole organisation to taking part in the day.

Caring passionately

A “pledge wall” will be set up on the website so that everyone who wants to commit to an action on NHS Change Day can make their pledge publicly.

We will categorise the pledges by themes so that people who want to take action in a specific area, such as improving care for children and young people, will be able to see other pledges for action in that area. They will also be able to see which pledges are most popular and whether others in your organisation or area are taking part in the day.

It was people taking action on a collective basis that led to the creation of the NHS more than 60 years ago. Since that time, people who have cared passionately for the ideals of the NHS have played their part in changes to take the service and its values forward.

And today, we are at a point in NHS history when there is a greater need than ever for those who value the NHS to contribute to making it fit for the future. Will you help continue this tradition and sign up to take action on NHS Change Day?

Stuart Sutton (@StuSutton) is a London GP and a former Darzi fellow, Damian Roland (@Damian_Roland) is a doctoral research fellow in paediatric emergency medicine at the University of Leicester, and Helen Bevan (@helenbevan) is chief of service transformation at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

Register your interest in NHS Change Day at Follow NHS Change Day on Twitter at @NHSChangeDay #NHSChangeDay.