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Facilitated meetings

What is a facilitated meeting?

A facilitated meeting is a single meeting, or a series of meetings, which can be held between a Case Manager and a practitioner or between other parties who are having difficulty working together to resolve a problem.  The aim is to try to reach agreement on the way forwards. The facilitator would usually be your organisation’s allocated Adviser, but on occasion they may ask a colleague to either facilitate (to avoid conflict of interest) or to join them if they have particular relevant knowledge or skills.

Examples of when this may be useful (but not an exhaustive list) are:

  • When it appears that an impasse has been reached in discussions between a practitioner and their employing organisation
  • Where there is a difficult discussion to be had with the practitioner that the Case Manager needs support with prior to next steps being taken
  • Where the employer is thinking of going along an assessment route for developmental reasons rather than pursuing a disciplinary route but the practitioner is reluctant to agree
  • Disagreement about a referral for assessment or disagreement about whether local or external remediation should be undertaken
  • When a practitioner has been away from their department for a significant time and colleagues are resisting their return
  • Where the initial assessment of facts has indicated that the threshold for progressing to a formal investigation has not been reached but there is a need for some sort of developmental action and the practitioner is viewing it as ‘no case to answer’
  • Where, post-investigation, a case is not proceeding to a hearing, but there is a need for some sort of developmental action and the practitioner is viewing it as ‘no case to answer’
  • Agreement and discussion of remedial action plans prior to sign off of agreement or to review if not progressing well
  • When changes in role are wanted by one party but not the other and agreement has not been reached
  • When a small group or an individual are struggling to draw a line under previous events
  • When a small group or an individual are having difficulty recognising the need for collective or individual change

There is no charge to NHS organisations for this service.

This service is distinct from our assisted model of mediation which is used where it has been identified there are specific matters which would benefit from a structured formal mediated discussion and previous local attempts to resolve matters have failed to reach a satisfactory outcome.

A facilitated meeting also differs from our team review service which is used where there are recognised barriers to the team working effectively together which need further exploration and a plan for how to manage these.

Role of the Facilitator

The meeting creates a safe space for the parties to be heard and to articulate what they feel is giving rise to the difficulty in dealing with the situation. The role of the facilitator is to ensure the process enables each of the parties to have their say and to support them in identifying what needs to happen next.  This may be done by asking questions which encourages the parties to explore further what is giving rise to the difficulty and what steps they think would help to alleviate this. The facilitator may also suggest options to either or both parties.

The facilitator will usually be responsible for articulating the agreed outcome of the discussions verbally and the employer will confirm this in writing.

Who should attend?

The practitioner(s) may choose to attend alone, but are more commonly accompanied by a representative from a medical defence or other professional organisation if a concern about their practice is being considered. They may also choose to be accompanied by a trusted colleague or friend.

From the organisation we would expect to involve the Case Manager and whoever they felt appropriate to support the discussion. This might be an HR colleague, a Clinical Director or lead or, on occasion, an external expert. We are not prescriptive but advise against a large team as this may be perceived as unfair or intimidating.

How can we arrange this?

A facilitated meeting can be arranged by contacting your Practitioner Performance Advice Adviser.

If circumstances and timing allow, you would then agree a date and times for the meetings at your site.

Alternatively, particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, we are offering these meetings virtually by videoconference, usually using MS Teams.

The timetable will vary depending on the circumstances. If the meeting involves just two parties, then there may be individual meetings followed by a joint meeting. Alternatively it may be conducted as a joint meeting from the outset. If more parties are involved then the format will be agreed appropriate to the situation and time available.

The parties may be asked to provide a brief submission of their perspective of the issues prior to the meeting. The structure of the meeting will depend on the circumstances of the case and will normally be determined by the facilitator. It is helpful if there is some flexibility with the timing, such as breaks between the meetings, to allow for short overruns and refreshments. In the final meeting there may also need to be short breakout periods for either side to consider options put forward by the other.

Follow up

After the meeting the facilitator(s) will write a summary letter back to the parties (which is in addition to the employer’s outcome letter) and then the Adviser will follow up with you as usual.

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