Published on: 14 January 2022

Dear colleagues,

Thanks to everyone who has taken the time over recent weeks and months to respond to the blog and provide feedback, it’s really appreciated.

In addition, I have been contacted by a number of colleagues from across the Trust, the wider health and social care system and, at times, from people in the community about some of the topics I have commented on or other related themes.

It’s good to know it’s useful to people and is prompting debate.

These messages often begin with ‘I hope it’s all right to contact you’ or ‘sorry to bother and I always reply and say it’s really welcome input and no trouble at all. It’s important to me that people feel able to provide feedback, ask questions or make a comment and know that I will always listen and take their opinion on board. I always try and reply too – although some days it might take longer than others.

One of the blogs I received the most feedback about recently was where I described shadowing clinical colleagues in a session that I found really useful and informative, as well as inspiring in these difficult and challenging times.

On the back of this I issued a general request for anyone who wanted me to visit them or their teams to get in touch. I subsequently had lots of invitations and I have either already been out to see some people or am in the process of getting them into the diary to do.

Last week I visited colleagues in one part of our medical assessment unit at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital, known as MAU-A, and also dropped in to spend some time with the theatres team, where I observed surgery being carried out by them using our incredible surgical robots.

I was so proud and humbled to observe colleagues in both teams working so hard, with lots to do and achieve, but still finding time to look after me, show me the ropes and explain what they were doing. I really appreciated it and it lifted my spirits to get out into clinical areas.

I hope, in return, I was able to provide assurance that the Trust Board and Executive Team are aware of the relentless activity going on each and every day across all settings and services to provide safe, personal and effective care for all patients – and value and appreciate it very much indeed.

In addition, in theatres it gave me a great deal of personal satisfaction to see the surgical robot team doing such brilliant work and leading the way nationally in this particular specialism. Some years ago, I spent what seems like weeks and months putting together the business case for this investment – so it was great to see it in action and important to remember how it is funded through our equally brilliant hospital charity ELHT&Me.

Also this week, I had an opportunity to meet the Prime Minister, albeit virtually on MS Teams. He wanted to check in generally and we discussed a number of things with one of our local MP’s Antony Higginbotham, who represents Burnley. I met with Antony before Christmas for a regular catch up and he is a great supporter of everything we are doing at Burnley General Teaching Hospital and in the community there.

The Prime Minister was interested and impressed with the update from the Trust, which included our response to Covid and, in particular, how we are working so effectively as a system in Pennine Lancashire and Lancashire and South Cumbria as a whole to care for local people. This includes our management of the current pressures and our focus on discharges.

This has been very successful and we continue to push our ‘Why not home? Why not today?’ campaign to great effect. On Tuesday, as one example, we discharged 163 people – which is an incredible achievement and thank you to everyone involved in delivering this.

It continues to be a team effort and remains very pressured across the system this week. We are managing surge capacity and have opened a number of new areas within the ‘red’ pathway, catering for those who are Covid-positive. I want to again thank everyone who is supporting these changes, which should not be underestimated in their complexity, but are being delivered quickly and efficiently to support effective operational management across the Trust. Specifically colleagues in estates and community integrated care have been instrumental and my thanks to Reedyford Ward for becoming the ‘red’ community ward.

On this note, it is interesting to consider the cohort of patients we have on our wards and compare to this time last year when the second wave of Covid was biting hard. Today we have around 170 people with Covid receiving inpatient treatment compared to 290 on the same day in 2021. More specifically, we have less than 10 people in Critical Care with Covid, compared to more than 30 last year. Analysis shows that this is because people are coming in needing care and treatment for a primary health condition other than Covid, but because of the Omicron prevalence, have to be managed with strict infection prevention control.

This is the perfect time to remind people of the efficacy and importance of getting vaccinated, including the booster if you haven’t had it. This is a main reason for the positive differences we are seeing between last year and now. Please, it’s never been easier to get yours, just book it here.

Lastly – and as I shared with the Prime Minister – whilst pressures remain high, colleagues continue to do a brilliant job. The team is tired but we are working together to manage in the best way possible. This includes being flexible, working in unfamiliar teams and settings, doing longer hours, picking up extra shifts, cancelling leave and coming back when they’ve gone home to support each other.

It is a magnificent effort that makes me incredibly proud. Thank you to everyone who is supporting us to achieve everything that needs to be done – in the Trust, the wider health and social care system and in the community where actions can help us more than you know.

Stay safe,