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June 10th 2016

Gavin Boyle
This week has got off to a flying start, as I returned to work after a few days off - my batteries fully recharged and ready to go. It was great to spend a bit of time with the family last week, and particularly with my granddaughter, Lilia, who is just 18 months old and real handful.  

It has been a busy few months for me and it made me reflect on how, being involved in delivering healthcare, particularly in an acute hospital setting, is relentless, and reminds me that we all need to make sure, while we’re passionate about what we do, that we need to keep that balance.   

The highlight of the week was a smashing visit to Ward 307 along with one of my Non-Executive Board colleagues Professor Avril Drummond, an occupational therapist and academic at the University of Nottingham. Nick Seed, one of our governors and a retired colleague also joined us. Nick is a massive supporter of the Trust, having worked here for many years and was one of the leaders behind commissioning the new hospital. We were ably assisted by Ian Davidson, our Matron in Surgery and were greeted by Alison Reynolds, Senior Sister, who really impressed me with her enthusiasm and positive attitude and the pride she clearly has in service they deliver.

It’s a really interesting ward which looks after patients in the head and neck services including ENT, Oral Maxillofacial surgery and Ophthalmology. Alison described some of their challenges, including looking after a wide range of surgical patients from those specialities.   Whilst many of her patients were here for a short stay her team also care for some of the most unwell patients for example after major cancer surgery or a tracheostomy (making a small opening in the neck and inserting a tube into the windpipe). I particularly liked their person-centred approach. 

Alison described how daunting it can be for tracheostomy patients to be discharged from hospital with the prospect of self-care and having to manage this themselves. She described the training and support they provide to help patients to do this.  Sometimes after discharge they aim to keep a bed available so that patients at least know they have a safety net to come back to if they need it, which can be really reassuring.

I also had a good conversation with Christine Robinson, one of our Associate Practitioners (APs). APs can start as Health Care Assistants and acquire extra skills along the way. I was really impressed at how her useful skills were so valued by the rest of the team.  We have over 130 APs across the organisation and one of the great things about the Trust is how we have embraced these new roles, Associate Practitioners, Advanced Clinical Practitioners, Prescribing Pharmacists etc.  

Christine told me she was looking forward to the national launch of new Associate Nurse role which could allow a further step, including the opportunity for unqualified nurses to make the step to registered practitioners and ultimately to a registered nurse if they want to. There’ll be some national pilots announced in the next couple of month and we’re hoping Derby will be one.

This week we also held the Board of Directors meeting – which, as ever, was a lot more interesting than you might think!   We had a wide ranging discussion about the future direction and particularly about our partnerships. We caught up on progress with our partners at Burton Hospitals after the recent clinical summit meeting, and the steps needed to move us forward. We also talked about the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) – the five-year plan forthe whole of Derbyshire, encompassing health and social care – we’re playing an active role in this – it’s all about delivering more joined up care and keeping people well and out of hospital if we can.            

We talked about our estate and how our physical facilities must grow to reflect the changing nature of services we provide, including how we might increase surgical capacity, redesign our ‘front door’ to better serve our emergency patients and how we might develop London Road Community Hospital as a critical component in our ‘joined up care’ plan.   

Cathy, our Chief Nurse, brought us up to speed on the preparations for CQC re-inspection in August. Although it’s a smaller inspection I am really looking forward to it – we’ve made lots of progress since the last one and it’s a good opportunity to showcase our progress around safe staffing and improving end of life care.

Listening is a bit of a recurring theme for me this week and I was delighted to be invited by Nigel, our Executive Medical Director, to attend one of the listening events he runs throughout the year for different groups of our medical colleagues. This time it was the turn of the ‘recently-appointed’ consultants to come and tell it like it is. There was a wide range of specialisms and a wide range of issues – including demand pressures, particularly for emergency patients and in services such as Radiology.  We talked about the difficulties of recruitment, prticularly recruiting into training posts within the hospitals. Along with the challenges there were great ideas put forward about how we could improve, not only in our services but in the working lives of our medical colleagues. We particularly talked about our aims to improve how we support and better engage our junior doctors in the life of the Trust.

So staying with listening for a moment, it was a pleasure to meet one of our Trade Union representatives, Helen, this week. It was an opportunity to listen to her experiences of working as a Trust employee, as well as to her experiences of being a local union steward.  Joining us was Sir Stephen Moss, one of our Non-Executive Directors, who’s particularly passionate about creating a culture so that all colleagues to feel confident in raising any concerns they may have.

We are really fortunate to have Sir Stephen on our Board. I have known him for many years in his role as a very senior nurse but more recently he was asked to be the Chair of Mid Staffs to help restore the confidence of staff and the community following the difficulties there. It was an interesting conversation and really highlighted the importance of leaders encouraging colleagues to raise issues and seeking to address them.  When someone raises a concern it’s not a criticism, it’s an opportunity to improve.  It’s often much better to listen and act – to nip problems in the bud, rather than through formal processes which may be protracted and sometimes seem to lead to what feels like a win/lose situation rather than a resolution. Stephen agreed after the conversation to take some of the points raised to the People Committee chaired by Pat Coleman, another Non-Executive Director, which has been formed recently to help us to improve the working lives of all our people.

All this made me reflect on how we need to build this listening approach into how we all work in the Trust - something very close to the hearts of our Lead Ambassadors. They’re a group of colleagues helping us to develop our collective leadership approach and are looking to all staff for help. So if you work for us do drop in any time between 9am-5pm to the Lead Ambassador Roadshows – taking place next Friday 17 June at the Royal Derby Hospital (overflow staff restaurant) and on Thursday 23 June at LRCH (Conference room, level 2).  We all can have a part to play in leading the organisation to being a great place to work and a great place to be a patient – so come and tell us what that means for you.

I’ll be in ‘party mode’ next week and I looking forward to two celebration events at the Midland Hotel.  You may already know that our volunteers have won a Queen’s Award for Voluntary Services – known as the MBE for volunteer groups - and the highest honour you can get as a voluntary organisation. It’s lovely that our hospitals’ volunteers have been recognised in this way. And we’re also celebrating 60 years of our League of Friends so I’ll let you know how that goes in next week’s blog - so stay tuned!

 Have a great weekend 

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