This week’s blog is tinged with a feeling of sadness for me as it is my final one for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals before I leave to take up the role of CEO at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. However, this sadness also comes with an immense feeling of pride and I would like to take this moment to reflect on the reasons for that.
I became Chief Executive of ELHT in September 2014. My primary focus was to provide stability and build on the progress already made in the previous year as the Trust moved out of special measures. This was an extremely important time at the Trust and building a strong executive board and senior team was instrumental in our efforts to improve our Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating which we did when we achieved ‘GOOD’ in January 2017.
From then the Trust has gone from strength to strength, achieving areas of ‘OUTSTANDING’ within our community mental health (CAMHS) and community end of life services. This is all down to the hard work and dedication of the ELHT team. And the ELHT Family is where my feeling of immense pride is rooted.
There have been so many changes in the time that I have been here. We have invested heavily in our facilities meaning that we have seen the opening of state-of-the-art buildings such as the Fairhurst Building at Burnley and the Acute Medical Unit at Blackburn. We have also revolutionised our surgery with the introduction of surgical robots.
In addition to ELHT, I was extremely proud to be asked to take on the role of Chief Executive of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in May 2019.
Whilst my tenure within BTH has been considerably shorter, the impact the Trust has had on me has been no less significant. I have witnessed the Trust go from strength to strength in an extremely short space of time.
One of the significant achievements that will stay with me is the establishment of the new Acute Oncology Triage Unit. This is a dedicated facility for supporting local patients who are going through – or have already been through – treatment for cancer. Opened during the pandemic, the Triage Unit is now treating almost 300 patients, 80 per cent of whom would have otherwise attended the hospital’s Emergency Department (ED).
Work also began on the ‘Emergency village’ and the first phase of this £13 million investment project has now opened. Patients are already seeing the benefits of this and I am especially delighted that work as able two begin two years ahead of the initial plan.
There has also been major investment into senior nursing and clinical posts. This, alongside the introduction of the Quality Improvement Team means there is now a greater emphasis on quality, governance, risk management and safety procedures. Throughout my time at BTH I have been overwhelmed by the support from everyone and the passion for implementing change has been incredible.
In early 2020 no one could foresee what lay ahead for the NHS and in fact the world. I cannot even begin to describe how humbled I have been by the sheer selfless commitment shown by each and every member of our ELHT Family and Team BTH. Putting their own fears and anxieties aside, colleagues protected their families by staying in accommodation away from home and close to the hospitals. This enabled them to continue to care for our patients safe in the knowledge they would not take the virus home.
We have also tragically lost colleagues. They paid the ultimate price and will forever be in my thoughts.
Collectively, we have been two of the hardest hit Trusts in the country when it comes to Covid and I know that the journey has been extremely long and arduous. The speed with which teams adapted to new ways of working and coped with being redeployed to unfamiliar areas is truly amazing. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think this would end up being something I would have to oversee during my time as Chief Executive.
Despite these challenges, both Trusts have continued to go from strength to strength with huge developments such as the new AMU at Blackpool and the creation of a third Critical Care area at Blackburn. I am also delighted to note that both Trusts have been shortlisted in the latest Health Service Journal Awards, yet another indicator or improvement and progression. Once again, there is no word to describe the pride I feel for each and every one of you.
As I look forward now, I want to urge you all to continue to do the great work that you are doing and I know things will only improve further. Please do ensure that you look after yourselves and each other also. One of the many things I am especially proud of is the wellbeing support that has been put in place and how it has helped so many of you. Make sure you use it when you need it.
The two Trusts have demonstrated the benefits and the importance of working together to achieve the best outcomes and experiences for our patients. And this has laid a solid foundation for the Integrated Care System and the Provider Collaboration Board moving forward. This fills me with a great deal of excitement as I am a firm believer in one NHS and social care has a huge role to play in that also.
This is not goodbye, as I hope to work with many of you again in the near future. It is a thank you. Without the support of every single person reading this blog, we would not have been able to achieve what we have over the last few years and especially the last 18 months. Thank you.
I would like to extend a special thanks for the continued support from Chairman, Professor Eileen Fairhurst, Chairman, Steve Fogg and the Boards at ELHT and BTH for their guidance and expertise over the years.
My final thanks go to our communities for the love and support they have shown towards the NHS, especially over the last 18 months. I cannot express how much it helped us through the darkest of days.
It has been a pleasure and a privilege to work with you all, please keep up the great work you do for our patients every day.
So, until we meet again, take care and stay safe