Published on: 17 November 2023

I attended a national meeting this week that was, fortunately, reasonably close to home and whilst I always mentally quibble over doing anything that takes my attention away from the ‘day job’, I decided to go.

If you’re someone who attends any kind of meeting between colleagues from different organisations you might recognise the suggestion that, for me, the experience generally falls into one of two categories.

In amongst the group there are always those that are enthused and energetic, doing great things and sharing their success. I generally find inspiration in this and return home feeling more productive.

The second is different but equally beneficial in my opinion and comes when someone starts talking about something and you realise you’re doing all the same things, maybe even a little better and more effectively in some cases, which is always a lovely, healthy reminder that you’re OK.

I always hope for somewhere between the two: inspiration from others and a reminder we’re doing well. What I got was a bit of both, but what resonated most of all was the clear call that part of my job is to provide hope in very difficult times.

For this reason, I’m going to focus this week on sharing some updates which I ‘hope’ do just that.

The first is that in the opening remarks, with assembled health and social care leaders in the room, East Lancashire Hospitals got a shout out in recognition of the great improvement work we are doing and holding it up as an example of best practice for everyone.

I have said before that all teams across all settings and services are always keen to understand if they could be doing something better or differently and they’re supported by an amazing improvement team, which is focused on some big areas such as A&E as well as more day to day processes which might benefit from a rethink.

I was really proud to hear this unexpected mention during the session and am keen to pass my thanks to everyone involved. The fact we’re doing this well should give everyone huge amounts of hope that we are making a difference in difficult and challenging times, even when it doesn’t feel like it.

To this point, improvement work is going to be a key element of our push now to bring the Trust’s finances in on budget by the end of March. You will be aware from previous updates that we’re facing significant financial challenges across the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS) and that includes us.

I have provided all colleagues with a personal update on this pressure this week, as our position is declining. This isn’t anyone’s fault – it’s partly down to increasing costs on existing budgets, as well as the inevitable overspends that come with increased pressure and more patients across all services. Things like industrial action, our fire safety programme and the presence of the crumbling concrete known as RAAC have all had an impact too.

But the simple truth now is we have a duty to all tax payers to spend within our means, albeit without impact on patient safety or the quality of services which I remain steadfastly committed to.

You might wonder, at this point, how I am going to link this challenge with the idea of hope, so let me tell you why.

As a Trust, I know we’re going to do everything possible to reduce our spending and I believe as a team, we will achieve it whilst caring for our patients, better than anyone else. If anyone can, it’s ELHT. The focus on continuous improvement will make a huge difference and that gives me hope that we can do this, even though it feels incredibly difficult right now.

As part of this I am sure there are things from a patient or visitor perspective we could build on, ideas about what we could do differently and we’ll be asking for these and sharing them in weeks to come. Please watch out for updates about how you can help us and as our campaign suggests ‘It All Adds Up’.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that last week we saw a major Government reshuffle of the Cabinet and this resulted in local MP for Pendle Andrew Stephenson taking up the role of Health Minister, working closely with Victoria Atkins in the Health Secretary role.

I have met Andrew a number of times and he regularly comes into the Trust to visit services that impact on his constituents, most notably at Burnley General where we met a number of teams just a couple of weeks ago.

His appointment into the position gives me hope because he is genuinely interested in health and passionate about Pennine Lancashire. In fact, he is one colleague who always asks me to give him more information about what we’re doing, which is brilliant. I am looking forward to following Andrew’s progress in the coming weeks and months and have written to him to offer our support if he needs it in the role.

Lastly, before I close this week I want to again mention all colleagues, local people across all communities and everyone affected by the ongoing Israel Palestine conflict. With the images being shown on the news around the clock, I’m sure there can’t be anyone who doesn’t fall into this category.

I know lots of people have connections to the area and will be struggling to see and hear about the suffering. It is truly horrific and whilst I cannot imagine what those living in the conflict are going through, as a son, husband – a human being – the images and updates are unbearable.

Similarly, the stories centred on hospitals in the region will land heavily with colleagues in health and care roles all around the world.

As a Trust we have reached out to people in our teams who have connections or family members or loved ones caught up in the fighting to offer our support. If you are struggling and haven’t received this message please let us know. As a team we pride ourselves on our inclusive and compassionate culture and it’s important everyone knows they are welcome and supported equally.

We are here for you, we care for you and we will help you in any way we can. If this gives you hope for the future in these most difficult of times, it is the very least I can do.