Published on: 24 May 2024

With the announcement of the General Election earlier this week, the Trust will once again be constrained in some of its public facing engagement activity in the run up to polling day on July 4.

As a publicly funded organisation – and along with many others including local authorities – the NHS nationally will need to consider carefully what we say or do, to ensure we don’t sway or influence how people may vote.

The general rule of thumb is that if it can wait, it should wait and so you might see a reduction in our social media and general engagement work. Of course, this doesn’t mean anything will stop behind the scenes and it goes without saying that we will continue to communicate openly about anything that cannot wait too.

I mention this as it will mean this blog is paused until July 5. I am grateful to everyone who contacts me with feedback about it each week. I’ll be back as soon as I am able.

One of the things I always try to do is be honest in my updates and this week I have been balancing the sense of the challenges we face and the good things we achieve in my mind.

It feels like we’re making progress, but it’s not easy.

When I think of the positive, I have said before we have ended the financial year 2023-24 well. In fact, better than that, we hit our plan, which at times felt utterly impossible to do.

In addition, we have removed the Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) – the bubbly, crumbly concrete previously used in construction but now at risk of collapsing from the Trust – and this has been no mean feat as colleagues continued to care for patients at the same time.

We have improved our performance in many areas of our work – sometimes against what seemed like all the odds. We hit the national target for seeing people in urgent and emergency care within four hours – and were one of only two Trusts in the North West to do this. We also hit the important 62 day wait for cancer diagnosis and reduced the number of people who wait more than a year for an operation or treatment, which has taken dedicated and unwavering efforts from colleagues for a long time to achieve.

I know we are struggling with the demand and pressure in our emergency and urgent care departments and most noticeably we are struggling with huge numbers of people coming into A&E beyond anything we have ever managed before, but if we stick with the positive, let me say this.

We are off loading ambulances as quickly as we can. We are finding more and more space every day to care for people when our traditional areas overflow and become congested. We are taking people in and we are caring for them, even if it is in a corridor or on a trolley, which is far from ideal but better than not being cared for at all. While they are with us, we have plans in place to make sure they remain visible and important – and to this point we have some of the hardest working, most caring and compassionate people I know in the team, doing their best.

I accept and appreciate it might not feel like this when you’re waiting for a bed or being looked after in the corridor – but the care is there and that we’re always striving for better, even when it feels overwhelming and insurmountable, which stands for a lot in my book.

We are continually looking for ways to improve and as testimony to this there are a number of examples which I am so proud of, which I think bring considerable hope to the Trust and everyone we serve.

I welcome the honest dialogue and the chance to talk openly and this was the case during a meeting between the NHS England national Executive Team and Chief Executives from around the North West region at a meeting on Wednesday.

As a system we were able to give a very good overview of our journey and the work we have done, the work we are doing and planning and the support we will need to keep delivering in the future. We talked about budgets and how we’re going to improve our position by working differently – and most notably this will be together as one team across the patch to remove any waste or duplication.

It was pleasing to hear feedback that our activity plans for this year had been well received and it was recognised that all teams would strive to beat their targets wherever possible, ensuring as many patients as possible are diagnosed and treated.

The Chief Executive of NHS England Amanda Pritchard was positive in her review of Lancashire and South Cumbria as a system as a whole. She acknowledged we are tackling some very difficult projects and offered the team’s support and appreciation to all colleagues who were working so hard.

On Monday I also met with some senior representatives from the British armed forces who often hold the Trust up as national exemplars for the work we do for serving veterans when they find themselves in our services. My thanks to the team for everything they do for this important group of people – whilst I am aware of how good we are at this, it is great to hear others with specific lived experience agree.

We can gauge what makes a difference to local people and the communities we serve in many ways of course – and feedback is always going to rank high on the list.

But one channel of information which is very tangible and real is our colleague recognition event the Star Awards.

I was again fortunate this week to be part of the judging cadre tasked with sifting through some of the most amazing nominations and choosing three finalists and one ultimate winner ahead of the awards ceremony in July.

It sounds like a cliché, but I mean it when I say that if you are looking for positivity there is no brighter source than the Star Awards, which have it in abundance.

Thank you to everyone who nominated colleagues across various categories. It was a life-affirming part of my week that reminded me of all the good things we are doing, each and every day.

It shouldn’t be the case, of course, but it is often easy to forget amongst the pressure and relentless pace.

My advice is to look up. There are brilliant people doing brilliant things all around us if we just choose to notice and recognise the good and the positive and remember and acknowledge them all when it’s feeling tough.

To this point let me say a huge thank you Jen Binnington, a Consultant Colorectal and Paediatric Surgeon in the Trust, and a multi-disciplinary team behind a new initiative called ‘super Saturday’ where they opened a ward specifically to see and treat elective patients at the weekend and ran two separate paediatric theatre lists as part of our push to reduce waiting times.

The day involved theatre staff, ward staff, paediatric anaesthetists and Jen and colleague Napolean Charaklias (from the Ear Nose and Throat team) and they are now planning more super Saturdays with more specialisms too. This is absolutely brilliant work from everyone – thank you.

Please enjoy the weekend when it comes. If you are working over the Bank Holiday, thank you and I do hope you find some downtime with your families and friends in between shifts.

If you’re not, fingers crossed for some sunshine and warm weather to recharge the batteries for the coming weeks.