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June 16th 2017

Gavin Boyle

One of the things I love most about my job is the opportunity to spend time with our clinical teams observing how they look after our patients, which is, after all, the whole reason we’re here. 

This week I spent some time with Dr Claudia Whale, who is one of our Palliative Medicine Consultants, caring for our patients who are at the end of their life. You might remember me mentioning Claudia when she first arrived in the Trust as an experienced consultant, but I was pleased this week to spend some time with her on the Nightingale Macmillan Unit and learn more about her work. This unit contains a hospice and a day unit to provide care, treatment and support for patients who are in the last stages of their life, or who are receiving palliative care. Our staff there make sure that our patients are as comfortable as possible in their final days, but also help to support patients who have expressed a wish to die in their own homes. 

My time with Claudia began with a multidisciplinary meeting, where nursing staff, therapists and doctors meet to discuss every patient in the unit, and work out a plan for the day. I then joined Claudia on her ward round, and I was hugely impressed by her kindness and patience as she talked to each of the people under her care. One of the major concerns for patients at the end of life is ensuring that they are as pain-free and comfortable as possible, but for some patients who are in a situation where they can’t communicate, it can be challenging for doctors to understand their needs. One of the patients we saw was an extremely frail lady who was barely able to speak, but Claudia’s patience and carefulness in trying to understand her needs was wonderful. She noted things like facial expression, muscle tone and tension in the limbs to understand whether she was in pain and on that basis she was able to make some changes to make this lady more comfortable. Wonderful stuff!

I mentioned last week the milestone we reached with our neighbours in Burton, in that both Boards had agreed to support the next phase of our work to come together as one organisation. I held a number of face-to-face briefings with staff last week, and on Wednesday this week I met with the Trust Joint Council to update them on the situation. This group is made up of representatives from trade unions and professional bodies for all staff groups within the Trust, and its members make sure that all our colleagues are kept fully informed about what we’re doing. This is a key part of making sure our work is successful here in Derby and also in Burton. 

The same is true for keeping our external stakeholders fully briefed, and so I met with the Derby City Council’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday night to give them a further update on the progress being made. I was joined by Helen Scott South, Chief Executive at Burton, who is joining me in a double act as we meet all our key partners in Derbyshire and Staffordshire. We’re also available for weddings, funerals and Bar Mitzvahs, if you’re interested!

Another positive this week was the launch of the new Lorenzo IT system in our Emergency Department. Congratulations to our ED and IT teams for getting this off the ground smoothly, in particular Dr Iain Lennon, Debbie Loke and Nick Howarth and everyone else who have made sure it’s gone well so far. I was particularly pleased with the support provided by our clinical teams outside of ED to relieve the pressure a little during this time. 

Nobody could fail to be profoundly upset by the terrible fire at Grenfell Tower, in West London, this week. I was moved this morning as I listened to a Radio Four interview with a lady called Jill, who was a resident of the flats. Naturally she talked about the distress and the grief of that community but she was also pressed for her thoughts on why this tragedy occurred. Rather than talking about failings in the structural fabric of the building, however, she talked about a prevailing culture in which there was a failure to listen and understand the concerns of residents. 

This really struck a chord with me, because so often when terrible things happen, it seems there is a climate where people feel they are unable to express their concerns or that these concerns are not listened to. The NHS is not immune to this either, and there are a number of examples in recent history where this has been so. With this in mind, I was delighted this week to meet Alison Bell, our new Freedom to Speak Up Guardian. This is a new role that was created following the recommendations laid out in the Francis report into the events at Mid-Staffordshire Hospital Trust. Alison’s background has been in managing patient complaints, but she also has experience as a trade union representative, so she’s ideally qualified to listen to concerns from both patients and our people. The culture of openness and transparency is an essential part of the type of Trust we are trying to be, and Alison’s role is just one of the things we are doing to foster that support which is so true to our CARE values.

As you well know, I’m a big fan of apprenticeships, and part of our role as a large organisation is to provide opportunities for young people in this way. We have about 100 apprentices working across the Trust now, in a wide variety of roles. I was delighted this week when one of this number, Communications and Marketing Apprentice Catherine Mellor, was highly commended in the Apprentice of the Year category at The Peak Awards. Like many of our apprentices, Catherine has now been given a permanent role, within the Communications team, and she is a welcome addition to the Derby Teaching Hospitals family. 

Finally from me, just a reminder that if anyone is interested in coming to Quad tonight I’m hosting an interview with Professor Steve Westaby, an eminent heart surgeon who pioneered the use of implantable artificial hearts. Tickets are still available, and here’s some more information: www.derbybookfestival.co.uk/whats-on/stephen-westaby-fragile-lives-a-heart-surgeons-stories-of-life-and-death/ 

And really finally, there are only two weeks to go until my Coast to Coast bike ride to raise money for the Trust. If you’ve not sponsored me yet, here’s the link to our Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Coast2Coast4RoyalDerbyHospital 

Have a nice weekend


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