How Sue Ryder have successfully implemented innovative ‘safety huddles’ in 2020 and develop new ways of working in the most challenging circumstances.


Despite the unprecedented challenges of the last year, teams at Sue Ryder have successfully implemented innovative ‘safety huddles’ in 2020 as part of a collaboration with the Improvement Academy to improve service user safety. Here Sharon Roberts, of Sue Ryder’s Quality & Governance team, explains how the charity has been able to develop new ways of working in the most challenging circumstances.

The Improvement Academy have developed a unique approach to service user safety through the HUSH programme (Huddle Up for Safer Healthcare) and following an increase in service user falls towards the end of 2019 we sought their support to introduce HUSH in our Sue Ryder centres.

We had no way of knowing what lay ahead in 2020 but I think it’s something to celebrate that teams have implemented new ways of working despite the current challenges and also seen considerable success.

Huddles can be used in lots of ways but our focus at the moment is falls prevention. It’s such a unique approach which brings together the whole team – clinical, catering, administration and domestic staff – to discuss any changes they have noted in service users which could put them at greater risk of falling. Perhaps there has been a change in medication or perhaps the kitchen staff have noticed someone has not eaten well that day, the team can then go in, risk assess and put a plan in place to prevent falls from happening.

Early in 2020 I went to Leeds with two of my colleagues to meet with the Academy and see safety huddles in action and we were so inspired by what we saw and the staff we met. Our initial focus has been at Sue Ryder Manorlands Hospice and Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice. The team from the Improvement Academy were able to visit Manorlands Hospice in January 2020 when we started the project but since then all contact has been remote due to Covid restrictions. The coronavirus outbreak has obviously put our staff under enormous pressure in the last year but it actually proved to be the key to getting safety huddles off the ground at Thorpe Hall. With so much fear and uncertainty in the early weeks of the pandemic, staff seized the opportunity to come together every day. Initially used as a daily Covid briefing to help staff keep up with the ever-changing guidance, the huddles quickly became a fixture. When the focus later switched to falls prevention they were already embedded.

The great thing about HUSH is that it also gives us a chance to check in with staff and see how safe and supported they are feeling. When we set a service on the HUSH programme we ask staff to complete a Teamwork & Safety Climate survey anonymously. If there is Quality Improvement work to do as a result that is driven by the Head of Clinical Services at each hospice. If we then come across similar issues in another service we are better placed to support them to develop their safety huddles. Once the huddles are embedded and happening over seven days we do a second culture survey so we can see whether the huddles have had an impact on team culture and ways of working.

The programme has been really successful here at Sue Ryder. We give staff the tools to get going and then step back and allow them to develop it. They need to choose the right room, the right time and the right leads for their setting. There’s no right or wrong way of doing things and if it’s not working for them initially they have a rethink and try a different approach.