I was delighted to be appointed to the role of interim Chief Executive Officer of East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust last week.
I have been part of the team here since 2009 and deputy Chief Executive for the past two years – and I mean it truthfully when I say it is both an honour and a privilege to take up the reins of this brilliant organisation run collectively by so many brilliant people.
I will, of course, miss working with Kevin McGee on a day to day basis when he moves on to be Chief Executive of Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust later this year and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank him for his support.
I have enjoyed working with him and I am beyond proud of everything we have achieved during that time to significantly improve the quality of our services and focus on patient care as a priority. We have managed some very large and complex challenges and inspired colleagues to make changes that directly impact the health and well being of each other and everyone in our community each and every day.
It is was an amazing achievement to push the Trust out of special measures and see it emerge as ‘good’ in the last Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection. We are well on our journey to an outstanding organisation thanks to the hard work and dedication of thousands of people who make up the ‘ELHT family’ team.
But above all else we have delivered an incredible if relentless response to the pandemic, which has hit ELHT and Pennine Lancashire in particular so very hard.
Along with the team here at the Trust – and I include everyone from every service and function in that – we have faced some incredibly tough and dark days. We have lost many, many people in our hospitals to the virus, including much loved colleagues, but the spirit and ELHT has continued to shine through.
The pandemic and impact of Covid is far from over. Current admission levels for Covid-positive patients are lower than at the peak last February, but I can confirm we have a significant number of people being admitted every day which include a large number who are very poorly indeed and require support from our Critical Care team.
Continuing to reduce the impact of Covid remains a high priority for the Trust. Everyone can help us to achieve this.
I know colleagues and families and friends out in the community are looking forward to next Monday, July 19, which has been dubbed ‘Freedom Day’ in the media as restrictions in most places are lifted. It will be the first time the country has lived restriction-free since March 2020 and I don’t underestimate how welcome this will be for most people.
But I want to urge caution and highlight this idea of personal responsibility. Please, do be mindful of continued hand hygiene and social distancing and the effectiveness of continuing to do both where possible to keep yourself and those around you safe.
In addition, I want to be clear that we will not be relaxing our infection prevention control measures across our hospitals and community settings. This will affect visiting for some time yet and I make no apology for continuing to make decisions that keep everyone as safe as possible.
On our premises, nothing will change. This includes wearing a face mask, respecting social distancing and gelling your hands on entry. Please if you’re asked to continue to respect this guidance know that it is there for your safety and especially to protect staff who have and continue to work so incredibly hard to make sure patients get the care and support they need to return home and recover.
At the same time, we continue to do everything we can to also reduce the number of people who are waiting to be diagnosed or treated for a whole range of illnesses and injuries as part of our accelerated restoration programme.
I am proud we are seeing more than 100 per cent of our normal targets in most groups of people – and aiming to get up to 120 per cent this month – in a bid to clear the enormous backlog of patients that need to be seen and restore our services.
It is going to take some years to fully do this and of course it takes energy from colleagues who are running low due to their huge and protracted contribution to the Covid response.
In addition, we continue to see extremely high numbers of people coming into A&E for support. Most days we are seeing well over 100 more people than we normally do – and we’re already one of the busiest and largest A&E departments in the UK. Please, don’t come into A&E unless you have a life threatening illness or injury and help us focus our time and energy on those who need it most. There are alternative places to seek care – you can find them by using the 111 service here, or visiting your local GP or Pharmacist.
As new Chief Executive I am determined to support colleagues right across the hospital and our community teams to ensure they have what they need for their health and well being, as well as access to occupational health services or anything else which will help them to cope and recover from everything we have seen and done in the past months.
So, a new job with a huge ask and I do not underestimate it.
But I know from my time within the Trust that it is the people that make all of it possible. The brilliant staff, our colleagues across health and social care, our patients and their families who are grateful for our care too.
I intend to look after all of these groups to the very best of my ability – with the team here at the Trust, with colleagues in Pennine Lancashire and with Kevin and other Chief Executive colleagues, working together as part of the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System to deliver the very best for local people across the patch.
It’s not an easy time to take the helm but the NHS is the best organisation in the world and I’m proud to be playing my part in helping it to continue to cope and recover. Thanks for everything you are doing to support this.