Reliability is one of the top qualities that the Holyrood baby will wish for in life

Written by Jason Leitch on 25 May 2016 in Comment

Professor Jason Leitch on how politicians can support their delivery systems to be reliable in an increasingly complex world

What can we do to improve the life chances of the Holyrood baby?

There are others who are way more knowledgeable than I am on what the best interventions our politicians could bring to improve the life chances of our Holyrood baby.

I imagine they will say that we need to make sure the baby lives in a nice house, has a nutritional diet, plenty of meaningful parental interaction, has a safe place to play, a good education. These are all vital parts of a public sector system that, when reliably delivered, will provide the best possible start for our baby. These are the ‘what’. My contribution is much more about the ‘how’.


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Life chances are still too dependent on chance than design.  Reliable systems to deliver these interventions, that’s what I believe politicians should support and encourage.

Reliability is one of the top qualities that our baby will wish for in life: a house that firmly stands through the weather, years, wear and tear; transport that gets them to work and home every day; healthcare that is available exactly where and when they need it; an education system that consistently delivers the best education for every child.

How can politicians support their delivery systems to be reliable in our increasingly complex and unstable world? Four things:

Encourage openness and transparency - and I’m not just talking about publishing performance data. I’m talking about nurturing a culture of learning, learning from others, and most importantly, openly and proudly learning from mistakes and failures.

Continuously improve public service through methods which encourage empowerment, innovation, sharing and changes that are designed at the frontline.

Put the citizen: the patient, the pupil, the reoffender, at the centre of all redesign. Include them, ask them and use their advice.

Learn from the best. We should encourage learning from around the world. Scotland’s healthcare system has benefited from learning from as far afield as Cincinnati and Alaska, and in turn, they have learned from us.

Professor Jason Leitch, National Clinical Director, Healthcare Quality and Strategy, Scottish Government

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