Q: What is Buurtzorg?

A: Buurtzorg is a method for providing community healthcare through independent nursing teams. It enables care givers to provide person-centred care and transfers decision-making to the front-line care staff. But Buurtzorg is more than just an organisation, it is social innovation, a vision and a movement to transform community healthcare.

Q: What inspired you to develop the Buurtzorg model and how did you do it?

A: The Buurtzorg model was conceived when I looked at the future of social care; the challenge of an ageing population, the growing financial costs of care and fewer numbers of people working in care present huge problems to overcome. Buurtzorg aims to respond to these challenges by providing a better care model. The idea began in 2005. It took a year and-a-half to develop an idea that was scalable, transferrable and competitive to existing services. My overriding vision was to change how community healthcare works in the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, the Buurtzorg model was initially met with criticism. However, after five years it became more common as the benefits became evident. After 10 years, it became standard practice.

Q:  What makes Buurtzorg so successful?

A: Delivering good quality healthcare depends on the nurse-patient relationship. Buurtzorg prioritises making the working environment easier for nurses, which allows them to foster this relationship. The system empowers nurses who do not have to refer back to management staff. Instead, nurses can discuss their work within their nursing teams. Nurses make decisions with users on their care, and users feel real trust and a connection with the nurse. This is the key to delivering good quality care.

Q: Does this approach work for all users? What is the response you’ve had from them?

A: In ten years, Buurtzorg has cared for 600,000 patients and received no complaints. The satisfaction rate of users is the best in the industry in the Netherlands. On top of this, a KPMG report found that the Buurtzorg model managed to provide this level of quality with 50% less care hours provided than the Dutch average. This comes down to the fact that nurses have the control to make the best decisions for their patients.

Q: How can the Buurtzorg model be transferred outside of the Netherlands? What are the challenges to doing so?

A: We are working in 20 countries, with a lot of interest from across Europe and Asia. The main challenge of implementing the Buurtzorg model elsewhere is tackling existing organisational structures. Buurtzorg promotes a ‘bottom-up’ approach by focusing on the nurse-user relationship, whereas most care organisations are organised in a traditional top-down manner.

Japan is one of the countries where the Buurtzorg model is being adopted. We have launched a franchise model with a number of partners in Japan. Now, there are Japanese organisations who are working in the Dutch Buurtzorg model!

We have begun small pilot schemes in Germany, Sweden and other European countries to introduce the Buurtzorg model known as ‘test-and-learn’ projects. The experience of the Buurtzorg model can then be applied to the wider organisation.

You can find out more on Buurtzorg when Jos de Blok will speak at the second plenary session of the ESSC in Valletta on 27th June. That session will explore the themes of social and health care innovation and technology in practice.

To find out more about the event and to book your place, please visit www.essc-eu.org.