Published on: 1 March 2024

I want to start today with a big thank you to everyone who provides feedback on the blog, whether that’s verbally when you see me out and about or in a written message in my inbox, it really is appreciated.

As with so many people in all walks of life and roles, I do get shades of imposter syndrome and it always feel odd to think I am anyone you might be interested in, especially enough to read about.

One particularly thought provoking and considered response I received this week related to the importance of values and behaviours when times are tough, which I talked about in the blog last week. You can read it back here if you want to. The part about having security guards and body-worn cameras to manage violence or aggression towards the team prompted this, which I am sharing with permission.

“Your blog resonated with me. Last week, the trust’s Zero tolerance policy and how it is applied, or not, came to mind. We were caring for a patient. One can’t even imagine what the family were going through and the distress and suffering they were experiencing. However, at times they were both verbally aggressive and abusive and the impact on colleagues was clear to see. I have not come across this level of behaviour before and I was quite surprised the trust’s Zero Tolerance policy was not followed and how staff seemed to be expected to ‘put up with it’. One could guess that there are a multitude of reasons for this, from empathy and compassion for the family, wanting to care, wanting to be a professional who can cope, to concerns that being clear about expected behaviour might antagonise people or might escalate a difficult situation more, or concerns about a ‘bad press’. 

“But having read your blog, I wondered should staff ‘put up’ with intimidating and abusive behaviour? As you say, we need to hold on to our values and the unwritten agreement we have with patients, relatives and each other.”

Thankfully, as the sender explained, extreme cases don’t occur at ELHT very often and, of course, we all recognise there are moments in life which leave us unable to function or effectively regulate our behaviour.

But I want to remind colleagues, again, the policy is there for a reason and, even in the most complex situations, please don’t accept poor behaviour towards you. I appreciate the natural disposition of everyone in the NHS to excuse and overlook it, instead dialling up the compassion and understanding, but you are important too and, please, never forget that.

Similarly, I want to mention and celebrate that today is Overseas NHS Workers Day, remembering the extraordinary contribution of those colleagues that moved to the UK to help during our response to the Covid pandemic. As with all international colleagues, what is clear is the diverse skills and experiences brought to the team are immense and we simply couldn’t function without them. I cannot imagine the challenges moving from one country to another brings for colleagues personally or professionally and I want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you. ELHT is a better place with you in it and I hope you continue to receive all the support you need to thrive.

Staying with colleague recognition, I’ll turn to our amazing path lab team and in particular Dr Scot Garg, Dr Ravi Singh, Jane Liversage and Caroline Winkley who have recruited the first patient in the world to a new clinical study designed to assess the safety and effectiveness of longer length coronary stents.

Scot is the Chief Investigator for the UK and Ravi was the operator for this case and together with the wider team they have put the Trust on the map for research and development of pharmaceutical products in the UK and beyond. It is simply fantastic news and very well done.

What is absolutely apparent is that there is much being delivered by colleagues at the moment that is positive. Perhaps fuelled by the tiniest sense of Spring in the air, I feel like green shoots can be seen across many teams, after what has been a tough and exhausting winter.

I’m pleased to report that thanks to an enormous amount of hard work and dedication, we have made great progress on improving our cancer pathways and the number of people who have been on waiting lists for treatment for over 62 weeks. I know both of these areas are a priority for local people and their families and I want to thank the team for their continued effort, among everything else we have going on.

I called into see colleagues in the emergency department at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital – as I do as often as I can – and I have to say, again, that they are moving forward and making improvements in what is undoubtedly one the highest pressure points and priorities for the Trust. They talked me through their ‘improvement wall’ which is an actual space on their wall where key areas are pinned to help the team stay focused and on track with what really matters.

It’s clear there’s real evidence of the difference in care that’s being provided, which is brilliant in a department which sees over 700 people every day and is one of the busiest A&Es in the UK. This has resulted in better results in some of our spot inspections for nursing in particular which clearly has a direct impact on patient experience and the quality of care we’re providing.

That colleagues still find the time and energy to reflect, reconsider, innovate and implement new approaches is a credit to everyone. Thanks for everything you are doing, it is recognised and appreciated.

To this point, I went over to Burnley General Teaching Hospital yesterday to mark the retirement of Simon Hill following an outstanding career spanning 25 years at the Trust. It was great to see so many colleagues turn up to celebrate and thank him for all that he has done for patients and teams, particularly in our Family Care and and Surgical and Anaesthetics divisions. It was clear how much Simon was respected and I want to thank him for his hard work and wish him every happiness in retirement.

Lastly, I want to remind people that we’re heading into the holy month of Ramadan in just over a week on March 10th or 11th for about a month and during this time Muslims will be fasting as well as focusing on prayer and reflection. I’m always conscious of the huge amount of commitment and energy this must take and if you are a Muslim colleague, please know you can discuss flexible working arrangements and support you might need during this time with your line manager.

If you’re not Muslim, please be mindful of colleagues, patients, families and everyone in our community who is observing this holy month. If you want to understand more, you could take part in the National NHS Muslim Network’s Ramadan Challenge and complete your own day of fasting to show allyship and appreciation to colleagues by sharing a small part of their experience.

Next week I will be talking about the Trust’s results as part of the NHS National Staff Survey, which are published on Thursday, as well as celebrating International Women’s Day on Friday and touching on our work to become an actively anti-racist organisation. All really important and hopefully thought provoking topics.

Until then, have a great week and do keep in touch.