Stuart Bolton, Engagement Manager
Centre of Excellence for Information Sharing
Early this year I visited Aldershot’s Safe Haven which is a new service in Surrey for those at risk of entering, in or recovering from mental health crisis and which after opening its doors twelve months ago is seen as providing a real alternative to using Accident & Emergency services.
During the visit I spent a couple of hours at the café and met with the team from the three agencies supporting the café, the mcch a voluntary sector organisation which supports people with mental health issues and is the service that manages the Café , the Surrey Alcohol and Drug Advisory Service (SAdAS) and Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust (SABP) that work together to provide the service seven nights a week and I also spoke to service users.
As I travelled back to Sheffield and reflected on my visit what really stood out was how essential the relationship between the voluntary and statutory agencies had been in the successful development and delivery of the project. This pre-existing relationship was something the project recognised as being significant but what was evident to me was that it was a real deal breaker when it came to information sharing. Only from this solid foundation of understanding and trust between the agencies had it been possible to so swiftly build, and also continue to develop, the information sharing required to support the delivery of the service and so really improve the outcomes for its users.
Examples of this information sharing include the establishment of a shared approach to service user care; providing the necessary access to service user case information via the statutory sector’s electronic patient record system RiO; and developing information sharing between Accident & Emergency and the Safe Haven service that identifies new potential service users, so enabling a direct telephone contact follow up with individuals after a presentation at A&E to provide support and signpost to the Safe Haven service.
This recognition and unearthing of the cultural factors that enable information sharing to happen between agencies and its presenting back to local areas to build awareness and understanding is what the Centre’s role is all about.
Through working with Safe Haven and other services nationally I have been reminded of the construct of the Johari Window which I was introduced to during my training as a drug and alcohol counsellor. Although originally designed for understanding personal development and group processes I have appropriated it for the work I have been doing with local areas on information sharing. The Johari Window can help understand the relationship between what a local area knows and what it doesn’t know about its existing culture and approach to information sharing.
The Johari Window sets out in a four paned grid:
1. What is known by an individual and is also known by others – open area,
2. What is unknown by an individual but which others know – blind area or ‘blind-spot’
3. What an individual knows about themselves that others do not know – hidden or avoided area or ‘façade’ intentionally refused to be acknowledge as known
4. What is unknown by an individual and is also unknown by others – unknown area
Through the use of exploration, interviews, case studies and workshops we are working with partners in Surrey to enable them to change the size of the window panes. Initially this is through helping them to reveal more of the unknown, unrecognised or hidden factors that either support or get in the way of information sharing. In Surrey this has included seeking out existing approaches to information sharing and drawing out the learning, through to surfacing individual agencies concerns about sharing client information that could have the effect of putting staff safety at risk.
By increasing what a local area already ‘knows’ about its culture of information sharing we are then supporting them as they build on this to develop and improve their approach.
One important next step for Surrey is to capture and share that wealth of learning that already exists locally on information sharing. I am now working with them to develop and deliver a workshop around information sharing for all their key partners. As Surrey now looks to roll out its successful Safe Haven approach to the whole of the County I will be continuing to support them so that from their window they have as clear and as full a view of the continuing challenges and opportunities around information sharing.
The Centre will be publishing the materials and tools developed for this workshop, keep returning to our website for up to date information.