Published on: 8 October 2021

It continues to be a busy and challenging time for everyone working at the Trust and across the wider health and social care system.

That feels like a simple statement to make – but don’t underestimate the gravity of it. The demand for and pressure on our services and colleagues is like nothing we have experienced before.

I cannot emphasise enough how the increase in people attending our emergency and urgent care pathways and the pressure on every single area of the Trust is impacting on the day to day running of the organisation.

That includes, first and foremost, ensuring we fulfil our over-riding and unwavering commitment to providing safe, personal and effective care, as well as supporting the health and well being of the team.

Achieving both is a challenge and I don’t mind sharing candidly that it is weighing heavily on my mind.

I want to acknowledge this openly and send a huge thank you to everyone who is working across the system – not only in the Trust as part of the brilliant Pennine Lancashire team, but right across Lancashire and South Cumbria and, indeed, the North West as a whole.

This pressure has been upon us for so long I also feel like people have become desensitised to it. Hearing A&E is seeing more people than ever, that we are flat out trying to clear waiting lists or that a particular service is busy and NHS staff are tired seems standard these days, accepted even. But I want to be clear that this isn’t the ‘norm’ and it shouldn’t become so.

If we work together – Trust, system and local people in the community – we can make improvements, however small. We need to believe it will get better and easier.

A great example of this is this week’s improvement week where colleagues working across teams and departments, organisations and pathways, have tried some new things, worked through ideas and considered if even the smallest tweak might make a different to the quality of care and the challenges we face.

I know lots of ideas and improvements have been made with many more in the pipeline as a result, which is brilliant, thank you.

I know people in the Trust are working day and night, through very difficult and challenging shifts, across each and every team, rallying energy and enthusiasm from very low reserves and have been doing so for a long period of time.

I must add that we don’t usually see pressure or demand of this magnitude over the summer and this means that we are heading into winter with very tired and depleted people, who would normally have had to chance to rest and recoup.

As mentioned already, the crux of this maelstrom is undoubtedly the very large number of people coming into our emergency and urgent care departments every day and night. This pressure then

impacts and throughout the entire Trust and then externally to local families. There is the obvious, immediate, impact such as long waits and stressed out staff but there are many other implications.

When it’s busy colleagues from other departments step in to support the A&E team, leaving their own posts to ensure safe, effective and personal care continues to be provided to everyone.

It is a simple fact that this has a clear effect on other services and, most worryingly at the moment, our focus on reducing waiting lists which have built up during the pandemic and continue to expand.

I hope it is widely known that we are doing everything we can to get as many people in for treatment as possible across a range of departments and procedures, but it is to balance it all.

It is not lost on anyone in any part of the Trust that people waiting are loved and valued people who are struggling and need help with their health. Please know we only take the difficult decision to cancel operations or procedures where there is absolutely no alternative and it is not safe to proceed.

Colleagues will continue to support each other with patient care at the forefront of our minds – I know this and would seek to reassure others.

I would ask local people to help us in the following ways too:

  • Make sure you’re accessing the right care in the right place at the right time – please don’t automatically come into A&E for care or treatment as a first point of call
  • Get your ‘flu jab if you’re eligible and your Covid vaccination and booster as soon as you’re able
  • Utilise recognised symptom checkers and stock up on household medicines for every day complaints
  • Ask your local pharmacy for advice where appropriate
  • You can contact NHS 111 by phone or online if you need advice

I have no magic wand but I do know we’ll only achieve improvements if we work together – in the Trust, the system and within our communities – to try and reduce the pressure. It is a very difficult and complex challenge indeed. We can all make a difference.

I want to assure you we have lots of support in place for colleagues who are struggling and the Trust is recognised for our strong and effective occupational health programme, which includes everything from personal support to team intervention where we know colleagues are struggling.

Please help us where you are able to.

Take care,

Martin Hodgson