Right first time?

Getting it right first time

The concept of ‘right first time’ enjoyed a vogue in health and social care – the former particularly – a decade or so ago.  Get it right first time, the argument went, and the rework and revisiting and revision that happens when you have to go back and do something again, and again, is avoided.  The result: improved productivity, better staff and client satisfaction and maximum cost effectiveness.

The right first time concept fell out of favour in the end, largely, as far as one could tell, because many felt it created a feeling of threat associated with not getting it right first time and was inimical to learning.  If we learn often through our mistakes, if we have to get things right first time, how will we learn, and how will things improve?

This is a very fair challenge.  Health and social care isn’t, as we all know, like manufacturing, where linear, technical processes can produce high quality goods every time.  Health and social care are human services and without continual adaptiveness and flexibility they will soon become, well, inhuman services.

But we shouldn’t abandon the right first time concept completely; there does not need to be an either/or, one or the other, approach.  Some things cry out for a right first time approach.  If your organisation receives a subject access request or a Freedom of Information Act request – to take just a couple of very simple, obvious examples – and it messes up what should be a simple process, then it is creating more work for itself.  If you can’t send out discharge letters in a timely and comprehensive manner, if you can’t respond to complaints in a constructive and helpful way, all you are doing is generating more work and creating a lot of unnecessary heat and ill-will.

Right first time doesn’t apply all the time, but it is a good starting point most of the time