After a longer than expected lockdown, the public is being prepared for a return to some sort of normality. However, pressure is growing for clear and evidenced approach to ensuring “the safety” of children returning to school, people returning to work or of the elderly and vulnerable. Of course, return to ‘normality’ involves manifestly risky actions such as taking public transport, being amongst larger gatherings, person to person interaction and other risk generating factors.
Politicians and scientists advising them, have had to appreciate and thank the general public for strict compliance with rules. This strict compliance is what led to gaining control over this vicious virus by pushing down the infection rate “R” below 1.
The general public had a specific centralised message of the threat from the scientists via politicians. Based on this message, public trust was won and confidence gained to achieve the desired adherence.
As this message gets diluted with more and more regional guidelines for the gradual lifting of the lockdown and return to the “new” normality, we need effective confidence building measures.
Governments and business priorities needs to undoubtedly continue to be the health of the nation. A healthy nation leads to a balanced and healthy economy. This is also understood very well by the general public who are prepared to go along as long as we all share the same objectives and interests of returning to normality.
So now we have at least the clear wishes of the general public wanting their kids “safely” in school so they can be “safely” in be in work to resume some sort of normal life but “Safely”.
Trust in Governments’ (not only the UK Government) messages is now shaken or in some cases even broken beyond repair on COVID-19 matters. There are many reasons for this but as this is not a political message but rather a confidence building message, we will not dwell on politics. Interpretation of guidelines by politicians seen as abuse, pressure in favour restarting the economies over the science to name but a few.
The usually trusted message is now not so trusted.
Breaking the Deadlock
Like any problem-solving approach, we need to clearly define the problem before any attempts to solve it can be made. The problem being expressed publicly can be defined as:
“The risks remain too high for the general public to be sending their children to school or returning to work as stated publicly by some scientists. At the same time the public are keen to be supportive of the return to normality”
As we stated earlier, we are not focussing on the political side here, but rather the confidence building side for the public.
If COVID-19 testing is anything to go by, relying on central government to come up with and implement assurance building systems will take a long time and will not be trusted by communities.
We are already seeing rumbles of dissatisfaction by many communities who are taking their own initiative to build systems that provide Assurance to communities.
I was struck by the motivation of one such group of community activists who are growing at a significant rate. This shows the desire to play a part in the community at crisis time and at the same time assure safety by minimising risk.
I was also struck by the lack of process, tools and general awareness of what specialist skills they can call upon, or gain access to, for support of their initiatives.
This also moved me enough as a quality excellence practitioner to highlight to the professional quality community and the general public that there are methodologies and toolsets for such Risk Assurance Activities.
Quality teams having spent the last 5 years since the introduction of ISO 9001-2015 talking about “Risk Based Thinking”. We have been promoting and educating in “Risk Assurance Analysis” and “Process Approach”.
In the current public health crisis, management systems present a holistic tracking and case management systems for mitigating COVID-19 related risks.
The management systems that evolved over the last few years must be lending themselves perfectly to building public confidence if operated correctly. They offer a 360-degree assurance through:
- Context Analysis
- Risk assessments and Mitigation
- Incident reporting & Follow up
- Audits and Surveys of adherence
- Reviews of System effectiveness.
Management systems can and should be easily customised for the purpose of Contact tracing. Contact tracing should not be an after the event activity. i.e. we should not wait until someone is infected to trace contacts. Risk Assessments at Local level and mitigation actions can work miracles towards reducing infection rate.
This, supported by other Management System governance processes, for audits, satisfaction surveys, incident reporting, awareness programmes, System effectiveness reviews will definitely build confidence for stakeholders
Systems do allow users to have the ability to review the status of incidents raised by themselves or any impacted member of the public.
As quality practitioners, we can play a very much-needed role in our local communities, whether a school, an employer, local council, or even local health centres. Let us hope that we have built resilient management systems that we can call upon in the time of a crisis.
Should we not be turning our attention to more locally based confidence building measures?
By Sam Zaidan
Published: 02 June 2020
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