A Year in the Life of AQuA: Kayleigh Barnett

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Dec 12 2019 News

As we near the end of the year, we start to think back on the months gone by, and having time to reflect on the year offers us the opportunity to celebrate achievements, learn some lessons and reassess for the New Year.

We asked some of our programme leads to share their thoughts and reflections on 2019, covering the expert work that AQuA have done to support our members and customers on their improvement journeys and what they’re looking forward to in 2020.

In our next blog, Kayleigh Barnett, shares her reflections on 2019. Kayleigh is our Safety and Mortality Improvement Lead, and works across a range of our programmes, including the Mortality Improvement Community and Advanced Improvement Practitioner.

Since I started at AQuA I have led the Mortality Improvement community. This community is made up of a group of interested people who want to explore reducing unexpected mortality as well as improving end of life care. Over the years we have had sessions on mortality data, learning from deaths reports, Board and Non Exec Director assurance, Advance care planning and DNACPR (or Do Not Attempt Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation for the uninitiated). We have a core group of people from across AQuA membership who attend every session, and a wider group of people who join us for specific sessions on topics of interest to them. This year we have mapped out our current mortality groups and reports as individual organisations and started to think about how we can reduce variation across AQuA membership so that there is, as much as possible, a ‘North West way’ for undertaking these things. This would mean that wherever a patient dies in the North West families can know that any required investigations would be the same in one place as at another. We are hoping to lead the way nationally in systems thinking around learning from deaths. We’ve a way to go (and I don’t think we’ll ever be ‘finished’ as I don’t think this is the type of thing we should do once and forget about.) This is something I am really proud of and am hopeful that we can use to start to drive more national conversations, so watch this space.

This year, I was also fortunate enough to attend TEDxNHS down in London. The thought provoking and boundary challenging event provided the opportunity for me to hear from some fantastic speakers on topics including life limiting medical conditions, patient experiences, nursing experiences, medical feminists and #prideinpractice.  The event left me reflecting on how amazing our NHS really is, and only fuelled my passion for the work I do and the element I am most passionate about, improving conversations about death and dying.

As a society, we are extremely reticent to talk about death and dying. It’s like we think if we say it we are invoking it. Death isn’t beetle juice. It doesn’t come calling when we say its name more than three times. And it’s really important that we talk about it more often. If we are more comfortable talking about death then everything else will fall out of it. If we know what ourselves and our loved ones would want at the end of life then we can have detailed and well considered advanced care plans, that have been discussed before we are in an extremely emotionally charged and stressful situation, when we might make decisions based solely on our fear of losing a loved one, rather than considering what we probably know that person would want. We can enable ourselves and our loved ones to have the best death possible as and when the time comes. I know if I was in a place where I couldn’t make decisions for myself then I would want people to know what I wanted. Likewise, if it was my mum, dad, husband then I would rather know their preferences so I didn’t have the stress of making decisions about such fundamental things without prior knowledge of their preferences. Would you know what your loved ones wanted (or didn’t want) at the end of their lives?

I’ll write a longer blog on this in the New Year (as even I totally appreciate it isn’t the most festive topic!) but I wanted to use this blog as an opportunity to let you all know about an event we are running next year, in association with NHS Research and Development North West. I’m looking forward to running this open space session (where the agenda is set by the group in the morning, allowing people to talk about the things that they think are important, rather than the things that we tell you to think are important). The question we are posing for the event is ‘how we can improve conversations about death and dying to enable us to improve end of life care?’.  The session is on the 16th March at the Village Hotel in Liverpool, and you can get more information by contacting me directly (Kayleigh.barnett@srft.nhs.uk) or Leanne Gregory at R&D North West (Leanne.Gregory@researchnorthwest.nhs.uk). I can’t wait to start the New Year with this fantastic event and work on helping us to think differently about how we talk about this really emotive subject. Look out for my more in depth blog on this after the event and I hope you can join us in March.

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