Published on: 10 September 2021

This week I wanted to use the blog to share not just updates about the Trust but also a little bit of what I am doing on a day-to-day basis as Chief Exec here, and also as part of the Integrated Care System.

Of course, there are a lot of meetings and whilst I’d like to include images to bring it all to life, the truth is that I am spending a great deal of time on Microsoft Teams and probably repeated screen shots wouldn’t be that fascinating.

But this week, my second week in the role, I have been able to get out-and-about a little bit and seeing people and going places has been a real tonic.

Last Friday I was invited to say a few words to the latest group who have completed the ‘Step Into ELHT’ programme. The scheme, delivered as a partnership programme with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) and Blackburn College, is open to all unemployed residents living in Pennine Lancashire who undertake a three-week employability skills course for working in the adult care and childcare sectors. When they have completed it, they are offered a work placement and paired with a ‘buddy’ for support and guidance whilst on placement.

Most importantly, successful candidates are offered a permanent role or as part of our staff bank and whilst there were 16 people on this course, a total of 55 local residents have joined the Trust this way, which is brilliant. Well done to them and everyone involved in this. Please remember we are always looking for new colleagues right across the Trust and you can see all latest vacancies here.

On Tuesday I was delighted to also be invited to the opening of the Garden of Memories on the Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital site. The garden has been finished for some time and you may have already visited or noticed its distinctive butterfly design nestled in a corner behind the Grane Restaurant, on route to the Park View building.

The garden was completed and opened virtually in October 2020, but there hadn’t been an opportunity to bring people together to ‘properly’ open it because of Covid restrictions. I have to say it was really lovely to have the opportunity to go in person and thank those involved in its creation on what was a perfect day for it.

The garden itself has been designed and created with a huge amount of thought and care as a safe place for reflection, mindfulness, ‘time-out’, conversation and remembrance for everyone – colleagues, patients, families and carers.

We will also use it to remember and pay tribute to those we have lost during the pandemic, including our own colleagues and to recognise the immense effort from everyone during this time.

Research shows that the natural environment of a garden space is beneficial to physical wellbeing, health, recovery, mental and emotional wellbeing. The gardeners within the Estates and Facilities Team have worked incredibly hard to make it a place which creates a sensory experience and has

the emotional needs of its visitors firmly in mind. Every plant, every decoration, each item has been chosen for a reason and colleagues across multiple departments have worked together to make the garden a reality. It was funded by local supporters and most noticeably our fantastic hospital charity ELHT&Me.

If you haven’t been down to see it yet, I would definitely encourage you to have a look. There is a scheme in place with our colleagues in the chaplaincy team whereby people can receive an ornamental butterfly which breaks in two. People can then write on the back and leave one half in the garden and take the other home. After six months the original half will be returned to them.

It is this thoughtfulness, caring and compassionate approach which I believe sets ELHT aside from other organisations. I would like to thank everyone who has been part of the project but particularly Chief Nurse Chris Pearson who has led this project, the gardening team within estates and facilities who have done a brilliant job and of course the support from the chaplaincy team. I am very proud of it and you should be too.

Also this week, members of the Trust Board met for September’s meeting. This was my first as interim Chief Executive. My personal highlights were:

  • The CEO Report – which includes national, regional and the Trust’s own headlines and highlights, capturing key issues and celebrating our successes, you can read it here.
  • A patient story item which began with an inspiring film demonstrating the contribution from estates and facilities colleagues throughout the pandemic and Board members enjoyed the opportunity to recognise the team and the amazing work carried out during the pandemic particularly, which you can watch here.
  • A conversation between board members about the importance of supporting the health and wellbeing of staff, particularly in the light of our protracted and ongoing response to the pandemic, focus on restoration and unprecedented level of attendance through urgent and emergency care pathways.

As part of the board meeting every other month, we also consider a range of standing items including the Trust’s integrated performance report, the risk register and the serious incidents assurance as well as updates from projects such as the New Hospitals Programme and from partnerships including the Pennine Lancashire Integrated Care Partnership (ICP).

Colleagues, partners and people from across our communities are actively encouraged to attend the Board meetings. You can find all the details, the dates and times as well as past papers and those for meetings to be held on our website here.

The Trust also held its Annual General Meeting (AGM) yesterday (Thursday). This is always an opportunity to look back on the year that has passed, noting key areas of challenge and improvement. Of course, the year from April 2020 to March 2021 has been like nothing else we have ever experienced in the NHS and the focus was firmly on our response to the pandemic.

There was a poignant look back to the year in pictures and images that we have captured during that time which showed some of the incredibly difficult challenges we have faced and, I would argue, fought hard to overcome. But what struck me was how the Trust has positively tackled the pandemic and there were points too which were uplifting and reminded us all of the huge contribution we have made. You can see the video here if you want to watch it.

It would be remiss of me not to mention that the meeting was a final farewell to our previous Chief Exec and colleague Kevin McGee, who presented as accountable officer in place for this time period. The Trust has produced a thank you video for Kevin which is really touching too. If you want to watch that you can do here.

As part of the meeting, I was able to set out my plans for the future and the things I think we need to focus on in the coming months and years. These won’t come as a huge surprise or dramatic change of direction for colleagues in the organisation or the system as a whole, as we continue on our journey to becoming an outstanding organisation. I won’t list them all here, but they will form part of the narrative of this blog and indeed my focus each and every day.

And lastly, it is with huge regret and sadness that we have taken the decision to cancel the physical ceremony for our Star Awards, due to be held later this month. These are a chance for us to honour staff nominated for a range of awards by their colleagues, patients or their families and carers.

This wasn’t taken lightly and was made following discussion with the entire Senior Leadership Group (SLG), who felt a face-to-face event with a large group of colleagues was not something we could risk whilst Covid infection rates continue to be an issue in the area.

We checked in with other Trusts and organisations within the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System in advance to see what they were doing and how they were handling face-to-face events. It was sad to hear that there are no other planned face-to-face staff recognition or award ceremonies anywhere in the Lancashire and South Cumbria patch for the same reasons.

There has been a great deal of work carried out to arrange the event, particularly by our Staff Guardian Jane Butcher and her colleagues. I want to put on record our thanks for everything that has been done so far and I know it is a huge disappointment that it won’t go ahead.

I won’t spoil any surprises as to how we are going to ensure people are recognised properly, but please know this is in hand and I am confident we will be able to celebrate the winners in a fitting and enjoyable way.

Thanks for everything you are doing. I’ll be out-and-about as much as possible again this week so if you see me please do say hello. I called into our Emergency Department yesterday armed with doughnuts to try and provide some morale support and I will be prioritising some time to see people each week right across all our sites and settings – do shout if you’d like me to call in and I’ll do my best to make it happen.

Could everyone visiting our sites, please continue to follow the guidance, gel your hands and wear your masks whilst at work or on our premises. You may no longer need to do this in wider society but healthcare settings are different and it’s paramount we do everything we can to dampen the spread of Covid and other viruses.

Take care,