Putting the Buurtzorg Principles into Practice: our third learning network workshop


by Ben Lukins, Programme Manager, Healthcare Improvement Scotland. Follow Ben on Twitter at @blukins1

Our third learning network event took place on 13th October and allowed test sites to share their progress to date and further explore applying the principles of Buurtzorg. It was well-attended, with representatives from health, social care and the third sector and from across Scotland taking part in a lively day of discussions. You can view the Twitter highlights from the day in our Storify.

Sharing early learning from the test sites

Staff from the test sites shared their reflections on developing models of neighbourhood care and their motivations for change. The strong desire to deliver the best care possible to people resonated with everyone and fuelled the enthusiasm for the day. The discussions which followed reaffirmed the importance of this, and people acknowledged that it was acceptable to apply the principles of Buurtzorg in different ways across the different sites.

Enablers and challenges

Discussion about the enablers and challenges of progressing the work highlighted the strength drawn from the common goals of the work: improving care for individuals, and empowering staff. Groups discussed the importance of protecting the test sites and the challenge of doing so, in particular regarding regulation and inspection. People also felt that it was necessary to address misconceptions about obstacles which in fact may not exist, or may be easily addressed.

A particular challenges that was raised was the potential barrier created by the legislation in Scotland pertaining to the provision of health care and that of personal care.

Groups discussed the need to cultivate the conditions of empowerment and self-management for the test areas and the importance of buy-in to the model from all staff, including those in corporate roles (i.e. HR and Finance). There were also concerns around financial pressures and the sustainability of the model.

Looking at the benefits

The attendees were asked to discuss what they would hope to see from implementing the principles of the Buurtzorg model in Scotland.  Some of the reflections were:

  • Increased patient satisfaction
  • Increased staff satisfaction (better retention, reduction in absence)
  • Increased access to services
  • Reduction in the number of care givers / co-ordinators through the door
  • Using neighbourhood capacity
  • Trust between agencies


What do we want from a learning network?

Attendees had the opportunity to discuss how they would like to develop the learning network for supporting the neighbourhood work. It was clear that people valued the national workshops as a good opportunity to share experiences and knowledge with colleagues in other areas and across health, social care and the voluntary sector.  There was a feeling that the national events should be open to anyone interested, and not just those involved in testing.

For those who were involved in the testing the events had provided help and guidance on how to approach certain aspects of the work, such as staff engagement sessions, and the importance of senior management involvement and buy-in. For future events there was a desire to look at practical aspects of the models, such as the decision making process for the self-managing teams.

In the spirit of Buurtzorg it was felt that the learning community should be self-managing.  It was suggested that there should be a digital platform to provide a forum for sharing experiences and discussing issues.  Within this it would be helpful to include updates on the test sites and the progress they are making.  It was felt that this should be simple and accessible.

Overall, there was a strong sense of the importance of the neighbourhood care work, and a real desire for it to progress.  While people acknowledged that there were a number of challenges with applying the Buurtzorg principles in Scotland, they felt that these should not prevent the test sites from further progressing the work and putting the principles into practice.

Next steps

Our next learning network workshop will take place on Wednesday 15 March 2017 at the Perth Concert Hall. Further information on this event can be found here.


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