Published on: 24 June 2022

A couple of things and thoughts to share this week which fall into the overall category of health and well-being. I genuinely think this is a topic that is close to our hearts and never far from our minds at ELHT and rightly so, as it is of paramount importance and bears repeating and reiterating regularly.

It’s easy to say this is a difficult time for everyone. Of course, it is and we are all only too aware of the reasons why.

But the real truth is that – as always in life – it is more difficult for some than others and people are impacted in different ways and to different extents by the world events unfolding around us. I heard this concept described once as ‘we’re all weathering the storm together, but some of us are in boats’. I think that’s an easy way of understanding it.

Personally, I really feel for those who are suffering the most, such as colleagues across the Trust and within our communities who have strong links to the Ukraine or Russia or who have loved ones caught up in the war professionally, who must be finding the ongoing conflict very painful indeed.

There are those among us too who have no previous links to the war but have chosen to support those displaced by it by offering everything and anything they have, from a room in their own home to financial or emotional support and many other activities. These are amazing contributions and I am always in awe of those who give of themselves so freely in this way, accepting it’s not easy to do.

Then there are the elements which are rippling widely from the epicentres of these events and reaching everyone, to those larger or lesser degrees. I’m thinking especially of the rise in inflation and the cost of living created by the war, Brexit and aftermath of the Covid pandemic, among other things.

How we tackle this in the Trust, at the micro level of day to day life in Pennine Lancashire, is something that is occupying my thoughts. I have no definitive answer but am determined that we mitigate (at the very least) and improve (if we possibly can) how we manage these blows for the Trust itself, our people and local communities.

It comes so quickly on the back of everything we have had to bear through the pandemic and with such widespread inequalities already visible on our patch, we must do everything we can to prevent them creating even wider gaps for people who can suffer it the least.

‚ÄčI have had a number of messages recently providing really valuable insight about how it feels on the ground around the Trust and in the community, offering feedback and updates about challenges but also what is positive too. There are questions, suggestions and ideas in people’s minds. Believe me when I say I am always ‘all ears’ to all of this and thank to those who take the time to connect.

This week I was contacted by a colleague working in the community, where the rising cost of fuel in particular is causing huge concern and anxiety for the team who don’t have much choice but to use their own cars to get about and see our patients. I am acutely aware that whilst they are able to claim their mileage back, there is a lag in it landing in pockets and the level of reimbursement per mile is lacking compared to pump prices at the moment.

On the first point – I want to remind colleagues that we can pay mileage in advance which can then be recouped the following month from pay, but I understand that some people don’t feel comfortable managing their money in this way.

It’s a simple albeit unpalatable truth that the Trust has very little wriggle-room on increasing mileage rates which are set nationally. What was within our gift we have done, which includes implementing the ‘higher premium’ mileage bracket and I believe this has been a move much appreciated by colleagues who are out and about in their cars for work.

I won’t shy away from the fact that we know that colleagues feel they are subsidising fuel costs to enable them to do their jobs effectively. I don’t take for granted either that the Trust is fortunate to have fantastic, dedicated and hardworking people who get things done no matter what. That they would find a way through the challenges is inspirational and touching, but when this feels detrimental to their health and well-being it is a difficult circle to square.

This week I was briefed that we are concerned that some people have phoned in sick because they can’t afford the petrol they need for work. If this is true it is neither fair, acceptable nor sustainable – and it certainly isn’t a solution. I don’t underestimate the stress this places people under from a mental health perspective either, including those who can’t come in, those who are trying to cover for them in their absence and also our patients and their families who need help and support.

I am mindful we are also about to reintroduce car parking charges for staff in July and, taking into account everything I have just said, it feels wrong. But it is a national instruction and whilst we have been able to delay it, we do now have to put it in place. These are the constraints we have to work with and some ideas are just not do-able when you run them through our strict financial controls, ‘break-even’ budget for 2022-23 and the governance that falls out of being a publicly-funded organisation supported by tax payers.

But we are actively looking at everything we can do and every suggestion or idea put forward will be taken seriously and fully considered. If you think we are missing anything, please let me know, I am always grateful for your feedback.

To this point I want to share a note of thanks I received this week which reminded me of the spirit of ELHT and the power of the safe, effective, personal care principles we treasure, no matter what.

Entitled simply ‘Letter of Appreciation’ it was addressed to Dr Di Triantafyllopoulou in our haematology department at Royal Blackburn Teaching Hospital.

It said: “I just wanted to express my sincere appreciation for the kindness, help, advice and professional attention shown to me by you and your nursing staff. It was a pleasure to meet at last. I have much appreciated over these past many months, when we have had to liaise by telephone, the care, attention and help I received from you all. Whenever I had cause to telephone your secretary or the nursing staff they have always been most helpful and a pleasure to talk to. I am so grateful to know that I am in very capable and caring hands.”

I hope this provides a welcome and timely reminder that everything you do is valued and appreciated during these extremely difficult times and that counts for a great deal indeed.

Martin