Published on: 8 January 2021

The first week of this year has been busy and challenging but I want to start by sending my very best wishes to you and your family for the New Year. The past 12 months really have been extraordinary due to our continued focus on the pandemic which began in February and has continued to dominate our services, particularly since October with a huge number of people and their families needing care and support.

Covid has not gone away and I want to be realistic about what we’re facing in our hospitals and across the Lancashire community in the coming weeks. The prevalence of the virus within the North West and Lancashire in particular is increasing significantly each week. This will lead to an increase in people needing care in our hospitals, including in urgent, emergency and critical care pathways.

Colleagues across the Trust are dealing with extraordinary workloads and this has been the case now for quite some time. They are tired and balancing the effects of the pandemic in their own lives but continue to do everything possible to provide safe, personal and effective care for people. We should not take this for granted and I want to say a genuine thank you to the whole team for their amazing resilience, sheer hard work and determination to make a difference. It is hugely valued and appreciated.

As Covid numbers continue to escalate, there is no doubt we will continue to face enormous pressure but I am equally confident in our ability to get through this. It requires everyone to play their part of course, and I want to encourage everyone to please follow the lockdown restrictions and stay at home wherever possible. When you do leave your house, wear a mask, maintain social distance from others and wash or sanitise your hands as regularly as you can. This makes a difference and it will help us to reduce transmission of the virus, and in turn, demand on the NHS.

It will also help protect colleagues working on the front line of this pandemic, like our friend and nursing colleague Bridget Palmer who passed away from COVID-19 on December 29. Bridget dedicated her life and career to helping and caring for her patients and her loss has been deeply felt by colleagues and friends on Ribblesdale Ward at Clitheroe Community Hospital as well as across the whole organisation. My thoughts and condolences go to her family at this time.

I know January is a time when people feel at their lowest and there is no doubt the Trust has experienced some of our darkest and most difficult days recently. It’s really important to look after ourselves and each other. If you or someone you work with has started behaving differently it could be a sign that they are not OK. Please, do seek help. Our latest WELL newsletter is now available and includes lots of hints tips to help support your wellbeing in these difficult times.

I want to finish with some good news – which, when you work in the NHS with some of the most inspiring and selfless people, is thankfully never too hard to find. The vaccine programme is well underway and, in my opinion, is a shining example of NHS staff at their very, very best. This is the light coming forward in the fight against the pandemic and I hope by Spring we will be in a much better place, with some real progress to be proud of.

I was also delighted to see an update on the progress of transport worker John Brown, who was extremely poorly and spent a considerable amount of time on our Critical Care Unit and then at Pendle Community Hospital last year. You might remember he appeared in one of the first BBC features which focused on the work of the Trust in response to Covid and he was featured again on North West Tonight this week, back at work and doing well. It really is inspiring to see and such a huge testament to the quality of personal and effective care he received during his stay with us. If you are reading John, thank you for sharing your story and we wish you all the very best for the future. If you want to watch the update click here.

Finally, I am pleased to announce that two of our colleagues have joined a privileged list of people who have been highlighted for their extraordinary achievements from across the UK in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List.

Chief Nurse/Executive Director of Nursing, Christine Pearson, has been awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire - MBE - for her service to nursing, particularly during the COVID pandemic. And Susan Henry, Baby Friendly Initiative Lead for Maternity Services, has been awarded a British Empire Medal - BME - for her services to midwifery and family care. A huge well done to you both, it is thoroughly deserved!

The year ahead will offer its challenges I am sure there will be tough periods but I know we have great people and great systems to meet these challenges together.

Thank you for everything you are doing.