Published on: 18 November 2022


It would be remiss of me not to start today with some recognition of the brilliant and informative guest blog from Vicki on pancreatic cancer last week and, indeed, everyone who has stepped into the Friday blog slot for me so far this year.

I’m being asked more and more to mention people, raise awareness about initiatives and highlight things that are going on across the Trust and I will always do my best to include those requests where I can.

The blog has definitely become a talking point and often provokes feedback and so I’m keen to build on the audience and use my voice to inform and influence for myself and for others too.

Colleagues are also pro-actively asking to guest blog in my place where they have a message or something to say and I have to say this type of request is popping into the inbox more and more. This will be really welcome – such as when I am on leave or when an important topic is better explored by someone with lived experience – but it’s good to have a change of viewpoint from time to time as well.

I really do value direct messages from colleagues – whether that’s raising an issue or, even better, making a suggestion or sharing an idea and I find time wherever possible to respond.

Sometimes, if they are based nearby I’ll bob in instead of emailing back and I do this as much as possible across all sites and services and not just Royal Blackburn or Burnley General. Thanks to everyone who invites me in advance to visit or provides a warm welcome when I appear, I really appreciate it.

To this point, there’s a range of things going on which I want to mention today and I will give an update on the NHS Provider’s Conference I attended this week, which included speakers such as the CEO of the NHS Amanda Pritchard, the interim CEO of NHS Provider Saffron Cordery and the new Secretary of State Stephen Barclay MP.

Firstly though, this month the Trust will be celebrating the first ever UK Disability History Month (DHM) and from 16 November to 16 December we will raise awareness of physical and hidden disabilities and look at what we can do to better understand and support colleagues, including through the Disability and Wellness (DAWN) staff network.

This is clearly a topic close to my heart and I have shared my own story about being diagnosed with epilepsy. I have also been clear that I was worried about how it might change my relationships at work or, worse, how people might treat me afterwards but the experience was overwhelmingly positive. For this reason, I want to sponsor the importance of DAWN and all of the staff networks in progressing equality. Please know that sharing personal information such as a disability is difficult but encouraged and that we will only ever use the information you share in a supportive way. You can follow our usual comms channels for more information on how you can get involved in DHM.

During the next week we will also celebrate Support Workers Day (November 23) and Midwifery Support Worker Day (November 24).  For me this is an opportunity to acknowledge colleagues in critical roles who are at the heart of everything the Trust achieves every day and every night.

Please, think about what you could do to mark the day, recognise important colleagues and do something to celebrate in your local department where possible on these dates. You can see more about the days here.

Next week is also Alcohol Awareness Week and I was pleased to get an update from our lead nurse in the alcohol care team Laura Walker yesterday. The team was funded temporarily by NHS England and I was fortunate enough to meet them when Amanda Pritchard visited earlier this year to see their work. They have made a great impact and both myself and Amanda were really impressed.

Laura and the team have created a podcast with two of our patients who were happy to tell their story. You can listen to it here. It is a reminder on a number of fronts. That the effects of alcohol can be devastating for anyone goes without saying but especially at this time of year when drinking is often more frequent than usual and can become a habit. For those who progress into addiction, are already suffering or concerned about a colleague or loved on, the podcast offers hope and shows that change and recovery is possible - the theme of alcohol awareness week this year.

All of the above is linked to health and well-being and so I make no apology for including a reminder that if you need help or spot a colleague who does, please access the range of support on offer.

As you would expect, providing the very best health care in the most difficult of circumstances was an over arching theme of the national NHS Providers Conference this week and it was good to hear from some very key people who set direction and policy in our world.

It was opened by interim Chief Executive of NHS Providers Saffron Cordery, who spoke about the ongoing need for resilience – which I took as an acquiesce to just how tough it is at the moment but she was confident we would get through it together. This will resonate with everyone at ELHT I am sure.

Saffron also reflected on the approach taken during the height of the pandemic where improvement and innovation, often at a speed quicker than is usually expected of the NHS, underpinned our success. Keep going with this, she said. I completely agree and the Trust is absolutely committed to continuous improvement, research and innovation for the benefit of all colleagues and patients.

The section ended with a focus on the need to address the cycle of rising demand and Saffron provided some quite chilling statistics including the 6,000 per cent increase in the number of people who have waited more than 12 hours to be admitted onto a ward for treatment.

But she talked about the population health programme and that by supporting those who are suffering most frequently we can reduce this demand. Saffron also acknowledged the cost of living crisis linked to the wider issue of health equity and how we need to understand the issue and target our resources to really make a difference to the lives of local people and, indeed, staff.  If you’re interested in knowing more about the health equity agenda there is a podcast you can listen to here.

I was pleased to see Amanda Pritchard’s conference address also began with an acknowledgement of how it feels to be at the sharp end of health care at the moment and she was quick to both recognise and thank all NHS colleagues for their continued efforts. I wanted to pass that on.

She built on many of Saffron’s earlier messages around the pace of change and innovation and how this, with a new focus on working more productively as a system, will underpin real progress across the NHS.

As you would expect, Amanda was clear about the challenges this winter would bring and referenced the letters to both medical and nursing staff jointly issued by NHS England and regulatory bodies in the past week which provided both support and assurance on the difficult clinical decisions that might need to be made in the coming months. You can read them here and here.

Two plenary sessions in particular really resonated with me during the conference.

The first was around building a healthy, inclusive culture and I’m proud to say I think ELHT is ‘well on’ with this area and regular readers of the blog and our general comms will hopefully recognise both our efforts and our progress in recent years.

The second focused on the public enquiry into the handling of the pandemic and, as a key organisation in an area that was hit first and often hardest by Covid, I think it will be something we will link with closely.

I want us to be prepared for this, not just so that we can understand and learn what went well and what could have been better about our individual and collective response, but out of duty to everyone who lost someone to the virus. It’s important we find answers for these families and recognise where we can improve for the future. That is my commitment to those who still have questions about how their loved one died and as a Trust we will do everything asked of us to support this.

The new Secretary of State Stephen Barclay MP was also at the conference and demonstrated a detailed and impressive knowledge of the health challenges during his address for someone who was only recently appointed into the role.

He talked about his priorities for the NHS specifically the workforce and bringing more people in. Alongside it will be our recovery plans for elective procedures and the urgent and emergency care pathways, access to primary care including GPs and the fiscal forecast, including capital investments into buildings and technology.

I came away reflecting, as you would expect, on the Trust itself and how we currently measure up in the current key challenges and our plans for the future. There is lots to do as we head into one of the most difficult winters I think the NHS will ever see, but I feel confident that we can get through it by working together as we do each and every day.

Thank you for everything you are doing and please do keep asking questions, providing feedback and ideas. It is appreciated and valued as we work through this together.