Action planning based on survey results

By holding a staff or patient experience survey, an organisation is making a promise to improve. Survey findings can be used for targeted quality improvement, but only if the organisation continues that commitment past receiving the results. The tricky part? Achieving meaningful change is not a quick process. It requires engagement from multiple stakeholders, ongoing dedication, and actions that are thought and planned out.

At Picker, we offer Regional and National Insight Workshops for all the National Survey Programmes in England. These provide dedicated time for NHS providers and commissioners to better understand their results, identify areas for action, and provide opportunities to network, share, and plan quality improvement initiatives.

We speak to Karen McKracken, a Learning and Development consultant, who supports Picker in facilitating its insight workshops, on why action planning is crucial in the improvement journey.

What happens in a Picker workshop?

The NHS workshops run by Picker aim to give organisations a better understanding of how the various surveys are designed, how the data is generated, and what that means in practice.

The workshops have data presentations – the “what” and the “so what” for improvement, led by Picker’s Insight Team. Following this, group-based activities are designed for delegates to explore key themes that emerge from the data, share experiences, and devise practical solutions that can be put into place in their individual trusts. This part of the workshops addresses the question “Now what?”

There is a role for facilitators in the workshop to inform, educate, and respond to specific questions related to the data in the surveys. My specific role is to ensure that the aims of the workshop are met and that delegates understand what they are being asked to do. I create an environment that is constructive and conducive to sharing experiences and designing potential solutions. I am essentially their guide through the day.

How do the Picker workshops help organisations create action plans?

One of the pieces of feedback that we get consistently is that delegates really value the opportunity to have ring-fenced time with colleagues to be able to share their experiences and learn from each other.

The workshops – and my role as facilitator – is to provide the opportunity and environment for people to be able to openly discuss issues that are sometimes quite tricky. It is the shared experience and the opportunity to understand how others, faced with the same or similar issues, have gone about implementing solutions. There is a sense that the collective knowledge and experience in the room can only be a good thing in creating practical action plans that may already have been tested elsewhere. It’s a “solution swap shop” – a place for people and organisations to get ideas of good practice.

What action planning process should Trusts follow to be successful?

There are two things which I think are really important here and those are “stakeholder management” and “sustainability”.

Stakeholder Management: After attending a Picker workshop, delegates may leave with lots of practical ideas about what to include in an action plan. However, if those people attending are not empowered to make or implement change, then the whole thing falls over and it is unlikely that any action plan will be executed. It is therefore really important that the key stakeholders who are in a position to drive through the change are on board with what is being proposed and can add their weight to any new initiative.

Sustainability: Once the change has been implemented, there has to be a focus on measuring and maintaining that change so that it becomes a lasting and meaningful improvement and doesn’t lose momentum.

For organisations embarking on an improvement strategy…

It is important to acknowledge that the process of improvement takes time and sustained effort. Evidence of your hard work could take a few survey cycles to show. This is where many organisations may stumble in a journey to improvement. The key is to commit to the change you want to see, and ensure people have the permission needed to allow change to take place. Keeping a close eye and ensuring protected time when understanding the wider context of your results and challenges can help to achieve buy-in from senior leadership. In turn, by having an evidence-driven improvement strategy, senior leadership decision-makers will have an easier time removing barriers to change.

Your staff and patients are a great source of ideas for potential solutions, so make sure you have active stakeholder engagement. As time and resources are limited, looking for ideas that can reduce activities that are not benefitting your organisation can be a good place to start. Knowledge sharing is a crucial, and sometimes overlooked, way to greatly accelerate your improvement strategy. Soak up all the ideas, information, and resources that you and similar organisations can offer. Include the knowledge and expertise of Picker: their expertise in person-centred care can help develop and support your improvement strategy.

To find out more about Picker’s consultancy and quality improvement services, visit

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