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March 16th 2018

Gavin Boyle

It’s always nice to have visitors, even when they arrive unexpectedly. And so, today we were host to an unscheduled visit by the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt. One of his personal priorities is the improvement of patient safety within the NHS and he came to speak to a group of around 100 staff from all different parts of the Trust to talk about this important issue.

He told some powerful stories of occasions when people around the country had received poor care and suffered real harm. We know that delivering healthcare is not a risk free enterprise but much of what he said I think really resonated with colleagues here who feel equally as passionate about making our hospitals as safe as they can be. He described the importance of an open culture where, when things go wrong, we feel able to acknowledge our mistakes and be candid with each other and with our patients. He also emphasised the importance of learning and how every experience, even the negative ones, can be a real powerhouse for improvement.

My colleagues also had the opportunity to ask some questions and, in true DTHFT open and honest style, they didn’t hold back, highlighting issues including the huge pressure of rising emergency admissions, insufficient funding for the NHS, low morale amongst junior medical staff and worries over NHS privatisation. No simple answers to any of these, but fair play to the Secretary of State for listening and responding in an open way.

Now, regardless of what your political views might be and I always try not to bring my own to work, I have to say that it’s the first time in my career within the NHS of nearly 30 years that a Secretary of State has taken the time to focus so personally on an issue which is of such importance. Jeremy mentioned that we were the 89th trust that he had visited to talk about patient safety and I think that should be applauded. 

In other news, you may have seen the announcement this week that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) gave their approval for the proposed merger between ourselves and our partners in Burton. The CMA, who look after competition in the commercial world, also have a responsibility to look at these matters within the NHS (this always seems rather strange to me, but there you have it). But I was delighted that they ruled that any concerns they might have regarding competition issues were completely outweighed by the substantial benefits for patients that would result from forming a single organisation.  It’s a real credit to the clinical teams from both Burton and Derby who have worked so well together to propose new models of care for the combined organisation in order to deliver a better experience for patients. It’s their hard work that underpinned the submission we made to the CMA who found their arguments so compelling. Well done all. 

We still need to hear formally the views of NHSI (NHS Improvement) and then it will be for both boards and both councils of governors to decide on whether to go ahead.

Naturally, as soon as we know more I’ll let you know. 

And finally, thanks as ever to all my colleagues who continue to work so hard during a time when the hospitals, along with much of the NHS, continue to be under such pressure. We’ve just come out of operating our Full Capacity Plan after a record 18 days. These are arrangements we only use at times of extreme pressure and so this gives a good indication of the challenge that’s currently being met so well by our clinical teams, supported all our other colleagues across the Trust. As ever, you have my complete admiration and appreciation. 

Have a great weekend.

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