Published on: 15 September 2023

This week I have been reflecting on just how busy everyone is, as September marks the start of autumn and a new chapter in the year. A lot of preparation has taken place at the Trust during summer for some annual campaigns which will now begin.

Over the past few weeks, you will have read about the peer vaccinator drive, encouraging colleagues to come forward and support this year’s dual ‘flu and covid immunisation programme. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has signed up – 30 people at the last count – who will be rolling out the programme from Monday. Once again, drop-in sessions have been set up to support colleagues and ensure as many people as possible are protected.

At the moment, we are fortunate to have very low numbers of patients who are unwell with covid in hospital but, with a new variant identified, we are monitoring to see how this develops. We can all play our part in keeping the numbers down too with good hand hygiene, catching coughs and sneezes in tissues (and disposing of them), and taking up the vaccinations when offered.

Another regular and incredibly important annual event for colleagues which will land in inboxes next week too is the national NHS Staff Survey – please watch out for it and fill it in when you get a minute, it’s a great way for us to understand how things are going for you. I know it’s busy,but your feedback really does make a difference.

Regarding feedback, in last week's blog I shared a genuine dilemma about the timing of the upcoming colleague recognition event the Star Awards, scheduled for 5 October, just after three days of industrial action. I want to thank everyone who participated in the poll about whether we should go ahead. The results indicate that 63% of people were supportive we should – and so that is what we will do. Watch out for more information in the coming weeks about those nominated and how you can watch the ceremony on the night.

This week, the Trust Board met and we started with a patient story, sharing first-hand experience of our emergency department during the first few weeks of our new electronic patient record system being implemented. The immense challenges faced by patients and colleagues were clear as the team coped with the dual demands of adapting to a new system while delivering essential care and I want to thank everyone – including patients, their families and colleagues – for their ongoing patience.

The challenges currently faced by everyone across the Trust – in all settings and services - are a recurring theme in the blog and it was reassuring to hear them shared at a recent NHS England national leadership event I attended with Shazad Sarwar, the Chair of the Trust. It was evident from the speakers, which included the Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard, that ELHT is not alone in these issues and the challenges within our organisation are mirrored across the county too.

To this point, emergency departments in both the North West and England as a whole have been experiencing an extraordinary surge in activity. During the past week, we saw an unprecedented influx of patients seeking urgent and emergency care services, with over 700 patients attending on nine of the last 11 days – indeed yesterday we saw over 800 people. Despite these challenging circumstances, our dedicated colleagues tirelessly continue to do all the can to deliver safe, personal and effective care.

The spirit and dedication of colleagues right across the organisation – on hospital sites and out in our communities - always blows me away! Their smiles are almost always firmly in place, with a ‘can do’ approach and a welcome extended to colleagues, patients and their families in any situation.

I can never thank them enough, but what I can do is provide support by reminding people to recognise that a hospital may not always be the best place for the specific care required.

This is important as next week there will be more industrial action which starts on Monday and ends on Friday involving – at different times – both junior doctors and consultants, although important to note that both will be on strike on Wednesday. We will make every effort to minimise disruptions, as ever, but it will have a notable impact on our elective services.

I respect the right of our colleagues to engage in industrial action and I appreciated hugely the decisions of others to come to work too but, what is important, is that we all respect the choices made by colleagues during this time.

And without singling out any specific groups or professionals, I'd like to take a moment to recognise and appreciate the remarkable contributions our Advanced Clinical Practitioners and Physician Associates make. In the face of NHS funding constraints, recruitment and retention difficulties and a concerted effort to shift healthcare delivery into the community, these two roles have assumed a pivotal place in our services and the quality of patient care. I am confident that we will hear more about these roles and the direction we are heading in, which involves adopting a multi-professional approach to healthcare.

In closing this week, I want to share the terribly sad news that we lost a much-respected member of our critical care team, Emma Parkinson, who was just 37 years old and an integral part of the Trust for 16 years. I know Emma’s friends, family and colleagues have been devastated by her death. Please know, we are all thinking of you at this sad time and remember that support is available if you need it via the Well Team, Occupational Health or Spiritual Care.

A timely reminder that, whilst we’re busy looking after others across the Trust, it’s important we look after ourselves too and recognise the great people we have around us in ELHT. RIP Emma. You’ll be greatly missed by all.