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Erik tells us more about his secondment experience in Spain

12 September 2017

Erik Smith, a CNWL Human Resources Business Partner, spent one month in Spain as part of the Hospitals for Europe (HOPE) European Exchange programme.

The HOPE programme is open to all healthcare managers or clinicians in a managerial role with a minimum of three years’ experience who are interested in learning about the healthcare system in another European country.

Erik takes us through his experience.

In preparation for arrival in Spain, Erik was required to do some background reading and a formal presentation to the Spanish Health Ministry.

“Before flying out, I had to do quite a bit of reading and research. The first day there was all about presentations. I had to formally introduce myself, the work I do and who I work for. I also sat in presentations by healthcare professionals in Spain telling me more about the innovations and new developments within their healthcare sector”

The first half of the secondment was spent in the Spanish region of Galicia, visiting Lugo Hospital. Here, Erik had the opportunity to experience what it’s like at the Spanish equivalent of different healthcare departments and care levels such as primary (GPs) and secondary care (hospitals).

“It was really interesting to see how things worked over there. I spent some time shadowing staff in their day jobs at the different health services, such as the surgery and accident and emergency department. I was really impressed by the pharmacy department. Over there they have robots that not only prepare each individual patient medication but also automatically bring medication and other materials such as bed sheets to wards for patients!

“Another good use of technology was GP tele-appointments over video conferencing, which gives patients another way to access the service. Other applications of technology included electronic patient prescriptions and the use of tubes to send things from one end of the hospital to the other, which I found fascinating.

“Day trips to other services such as the ambulance service were also organised. It was quite intensive as I would leave at 6.45am and not return back to the hotel until 11.30pm and then would have an 8am start the next day! It was definitely worth it because I learnt so much meeting hospital management.”

For the remainder of the secondment, Erik travelled five hours to Asturias. Where he visited different mental health and primary care centres.

“They had 24-hour GP centres in local communities in the hard to reach areas. These centres are essentially a house, where doctors sleep in. For emergencies, they have helicopters. The purpose of this set-up was to relieve pressure in hospitals and to meet the needs of the people in those areas.

“I visited mental health centres within the locality. Spain uses a range of unique methods to help patients in their rehab from mental health problems such as a self-funded garden where the patients grow and sell produce. This creates a community atmosphere for people with severe mental health problems. They even let patients form relationships with each other and let them share rooms as they believe this can help in rehabilitation.

The last activity of the secondment was another presentation in Madrid where Erik and his group had to present things they have taken away from their experience.

“The self-funded garden is definitely a great idea and it shows that innovation does not always need to be about fancy tech and gear.

 “There is no blame culture in Spain. If a healthcare professional makes a mistake, it is viewed as the system failing the staff member and not the other way round. They inspire performance with a staff bonus pay system related to care indicators and basic pay is a lot lower than in the UK.”

Erik found a lot of value in the secondment and would recommend it to others

“I don’t want people to underestimate how challenging the secondment is. The people in Spain invested in me and therefore the schedules were busy and the days can be long and exhausting. For me, an extra challenge was the language. I had to speak in Spanish for a lot of the time. It is not always necessary to know the language of the country you are visiting and many countries will accept secondments from staff who don’t know the native language.

“Nevertheless, it is an incredible experience, where I got to witness the cultural differences in healthcare, network with people from across Europe that I still keep in touch with and have learnt so much of value. I would definitely recommend this to others.

“You also get to go on guided visits to different sights at weekends and evenings, so it’s not all work!”

To learn more about Erik's experience, take a look at his blog.

The next HOPE European Exchange programme will be taking place in 2018. To find out more, visit the NHS Leadership Academy website.