When I was 'youthful' and in the early stages of my working life I had a mentor in KPMG who was fond of reminding me that 'People do Business with People'. The meaning behind this was always to consider the importance of connections and relationships in ensuring our work with clients and as a team was completed to a high standard. Yesterday we finished a two day virtual innovation burst as part of #ProjectA (improving ambulance services through the power of frontline staff and the public) and 'People do Business with People' kept coming into my mind.

The virtual innovation burst connected all 10 English ambulance trusts and their partner services in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to work on 12 themes for improvement across their services. These themes ranged from appropriate responses to mental health, to staff wellbeing to implementing 'quick wins'. We used 'virtual' facilitation over the internet to bring everyone together and make the two days happen.

Having worked with the ambulance service since June - their attitude and commitment was not a surprise to me. They just got 'stuck in' - eager to discuss their ideas of how things could be better, share best practice and discuss the 'extensibility' of current good practices between and across Trusts. I started to reflect as we moved through day 2 that their was an underlying principle behind their willingness to work and share improvement - 'People do Business with People'. The new found connections to each other in their teams and much wider across Trusts and even across countries has become a powerful underpinning of #ProjectA and in NHS Horizons we have already started the discussion about how we build and harness this connection and collaboration beyond the immediate aims for #ProjectA.

So what ideas did the trusts and services test as part of the innovation burst? There are simply too many to list but from the Trust's and services I worked with they included (and this is by no means everything!):

1 - A desire to consider how mental health assessment could be standardised and developed across all.

2 - The offer of a current website used as a community engagement tool for children by one Trust to be freely extended to all other ambulance Trusts and developed for other hard to reach communities.

3 - Building and extending the concept of mental health "safe havens" as an appropriate and potential response to mental health calls.

I return though to where I started - the importance of connections and relationships in getting good work done. Technology can and should facilitate this - in this instance it allowed the people connections to happen but it also allowed the ambulance trust's the flexibility to work as they saw best over the two days. I get a sense from the immediate feedback that the ambulance service now have a real desire to keep and build these connections getting into a virtuous circle of reflection and aspiration concerning improvement - using the virtual facilitation and technologies to keep this live. How we do this needs careful thought but I think a seed has been sown - ambulance people do 'good' business with other ambulance people.