So I can’t believe it’s nearly Christmas – it seems to have crept up on me this year – but more of our festive goings on in a moment!

It’s always a good start to the week when I get along to staff induction to meet some of our new colleagues. We had a good bunch on Monday, mostly those starting new roles in Derby but we also had a good number of volunteers too. I was able to share with them some of our latest news, including the Big Conversation. Thank you again to everybody who got involved and shared their thoughts about our ‘Why?’, ‘How?’ and ‘What?’. In the New Year – 15 January to be precise – we’ll start our last big conversation using the Clever Together social media platform. This time, you’ll have an opportunity to see their analysis of all the things we’ve been talking about and be able to say what’s “strong, wrong or missing”. One of the other things I always mention at Induction is ‘accountability’ – as a Foundation Trust we’re accountable to Parliament, but more importantly for me, we’re accountable to the communities we serve. That’s particularly so in the case of our Council of Governors, comprising local people, our staff and representatives of important partners as well.  But that local accountability is felt in other ways too.

So, on Wednesday night it was a pleasure to be asked along by East Staffordshire District Council Scrutiny and Health Committee, which is a group of elected councillors whose role is to keep an oversight of a range of things, including the delivery of healthcare. This was an important group to keep informed before our merger but we’d always promised to come back to keep them updated. I must say, I was surprised when I entered the room to see the throngs of happy faces chatting away, the sparkle of silverware, the chink of glasses and a band playing – obviously, I’d mistakenly also joined a Christmas party at the town hall that night!  I finally found the right room and it was a much more formal affair, I can tell you!

Together with Magnus, our Executive Medical Director, we took the opportunity to brief the committee on our plans to improve our services following the merger. So much is happening and it was great to be able to talk about some of the specific improvements, such as in Renal, Cardiology, Stroke and more. We also gave an update on the innovative Outwoods development at QHB – we’re aiming to create an integrated health and care village and have recently been awarded £21.8m to help this exciting vision come to reality. In addition, we also updated on plans to build a multi storey car park at QHB, which is currently going through planning approval, but if successful would be open in about April 2020, giving an extra 425 spaces.

One of the other issues that was raised was our future plans for community hospitals. Our three community hospitals at London Road in Derby, Samuel Johnson in Lichfield and Sir Robert Peel in Tamworth are a really important part of our plans for UHDB. There’s lot’s happening, with specialities from the wider trust seeking to expand their reach by delivering services at these sites too. Our Hand and Orthopaedic surgeons are looking to use the facilities at Tamworth, we’ve already started specialist spinal outpatients there and our Renal physicians are looking to improve care for dialysis patients at Samuel Johnson. These are just a few examples but there are lots more in the pipeline.

It was a pleasure to spend a morning down at Sir Robert Peel with the fabulous Matron Claire Wood, Vic Agar and Hollie Shields. I’m always bowled over by the enthusiasm of all colleagues at our community hospitals but it was really impressive to see the excitement for the future from the SRP team. I spent time on the wards, visited theatres, endoscopy outpatients and the minor injuries unit too. Everywhere I went there was a sense of optimism for the future. I also took the opportunity, a little bit ahead of schedule, to present the award for the Christmas ‘Best Dressed’ ward and department. The honours went to Philip Ward and MIU – if you get the chance check out the Grinch and the Santa skeleton!

Thanks to everybody who’s got involved in our Best Dressed competition this year. I spent some time with Magnus and Jim Murray, Director of Nursing (Operations), judging some of the entries this week and I was amazed by the quality and ingenuity of some of them. They were off the scale! Later today I’ll be presenting the winners with their prizes here at RDH and QHB, with Krishna Kallianpur, Director of Nursing (Professional Standards) and Lorna Priestman, (Director of Quality, Clinical Governance and Risk and Compliance) doing the honours at LRCH and Samuel Johnson. Well done everybody!

It feels like the challenge of winter is certainly with us and I appreciated my walk around at QHB this week speaking to colleagues in ED, the Acute Assessment Unit and Short Stay ward. I was impressed by the changes being made to improve our care for emergency patients. The upgrade of ED and AAU earlier in the year will certainly help us this winter, as will the expansion of our Short Stay unit. This seeks to rapidly manage some of our acute patients to get them home as soon as possible helping them to avoid a prolonged stay and at the same time releasing capacity within the rest of the hospital to accommodate other patients.

At every one of our hospitals, colleagues have gone the extra mile to plan meticulously for this winter – with Surgical and Orthopaedic wards at both RDH and QHB releasing beds to our Medical specialities and extra capacity being set up on all three of our community hospitals immediately after Christmas. Not to mention our fabulous estates team, who are beavering away to bring online two modular wards; the first at RDH with one later at QHB. And for our nursing leaders, who are ensuring that all of these areas are safely staffed. Everybody at UHDB has played a part in these preparations in one way or another – thank you all!

I’d like to end with a special message, which is to wish you all a Merry Christmas – every day you do amazing things for our patients and sometimes Christmas gives us an opportunity to step back and reflect that, in spite of the challenges. No matter what your role is at UHDB, you’re doing something that is hugely valuable and makes a massive difference to the lives of the people we serve.

Ours is a 24/7 kind of service, so I know many of you will be working over the Christmas period keeping our patients safe and cared for. I hope though that all of you get a chance to spend some time with your families, relax a little and enjoy the season.

Have a great Christmas!

Gavin

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