So, in a Jools Holland Hogmanay, annual round up kind of style, I’ll be giving a run-down of some personal highlights from the year that was 2018!

Before that though, I’ve loved seeing all of the social media posts and pics over Christmas, including the occasional sing along and the odd picture of some of our Christmas decorations, which were very odd indeed in some cases! I’ve seen lots of colleagues with smiley faces, and wondered whether Santa hats and reindeer antlers had become a compulsory part of our uniform policy! This year, it feels like #TeamUHDB has taken over Twitter. I have seen so many examples of colleagues going above and beyond to make our hospitals a warm and welcoming place for patients and visitors. It’s been great to see colleagues having a bit of fun at work. Ours is often a very serious business indeed but lightening the mood a little helps make some of the stresses and strains more bearable and I’m convinced it puts us all in a better place to look after our patients.

Hopefully, you’ll have seen our first UHDB music video, which was released on Christmas Eve – it’s now been viewed by 14,000 people! It was smashing to see so many of you shaking and shimmying along to Shakin’ Stevens. I’m not sure how I managed to avoid a guest appearance but I loved it – and so did many of you! Thank you to Catherine in the Communications team for spreading festive cheer across our hospitals by pulling the video together.

I’ve heard some great festive stories, including colleagues who came into work on their day off to entertain patients by playing music and another who brought in a hot Christmas dinner for their colleagues who’d missed out on their family feast at home. Thank you all!

Our patients have really appreciated your efforts too – it’s been really heart-warming to read some of the compliments on Twitter and Facebook. On Christmas Eve, we received some hand-drawn thank you cards from Year 5 pupils at Pennine Way Junior School in Swadlincote. The feeling behind it was summed up on one poster, which read “thank you for staying at work over Christmas to keep us safe. You are lovely and caring people who always help us and do not walk away”. I couldn’t have put it better myself.

As we welcome in the New Year, we’re preparing for a busy few weeks. Our winter beds at all five of our hospitals have opened or been re-allocated to help accommodate the rise in medical admissions we expect at this time of the year. Well done teams for being so flexible and going the extra mile. Thank you to everyone who has worked hard to make this happen and for your continued efforts and dedication to providing the best possible service to our patients and communities.

So, to my 2018 round-up. This year has been a huge milestone for us, as we combined the skills and expertise of our 12,500 staff across five sites to become UHDB. Reflecting on 2018, we have so many things to be proud of. Here are some of my stand-out moments:

January

The first Pride of Derby Awards of 2018 saw two special Chairman and Chief Executive Awards handed out to cancer services and emergency services staff. Cancer services received recognition for the fantastic achievement of delivering all nine national cancer care targets, whilst colleagues from ‘front door’ areas, such as the Emergency Department and the Medical Assessment Unit, were thanked for continuing to deliver quality care for emergency patients, in the face of winter pressures. The first 2018 GEM award was also presented to the Bereavement Midwives at Queen’s Hospital Burton for the support they provide to families in the Snowdrop Suite.

February

Queen’s Hospital Burton also became the first hospital in England to install an onsite recycling machine, with the Sterimelt machine winning an industry award later in the year for turning unwanted packaging and contaminated clinical waste into reusable plastic. Derby County owner Mel Morris officially opened the new pharmacy robot at the Royal Derby Hospital. The new robot has been operational in the department since December 2017 and has helped to ensure patients get their prescriptions faster than ever before, whilst also removing human error and providing 24 hour support to the hospital’s Pharmacy service to meet increasing demand.

March

There were Trust accolades galore throughout March, with our Patient Experience team in Derby firstly being named the best in the whole country at the Patient Experience Network National Awards. We were then thrilled to see our Anaesthetics department become just the 20th nationwide to achieve Anaesthetic Clinical Services Accreditation from the Royal College of Anaesthetists. And finally, Dr Andrew ‘Bod’ Goddard, one of our Consultant Gastroenterologists at the Royal Derby Hospital, was elected as the next president of the Royal College of Physicians.

April

April saw a landmark moment for our Derby campuses, as the Trust appointed our first ever homemade Consultant trained onsite at the Royal Derby Hospital. Consultant Hepatologist Dr Ihteshamul Haq began his new role in the autumn, nine years after concluding his studies for a degree in medicine at the University of Nottingham Graduate Entry Medical School, which is based at the Royal Derby Hospital. All of our five sites also joined in the 70 day ‘End PJ Paralysis’ challenge to get as many patients as possible up, dressed and moving in their own clothes, with many wards even introducing wardrobes to help persuade patients to get dressed out of their hospital gowns.

May

I was thrilled to see both Derby Teaching Hospitals and Burton Hospitals named among the best 20 Trusts in the country in the ‘CHKS Top Hospitals’ list. There was also cause for celebration in Burton, as our Emergency Department at Queen’s Hospital Burton benefited from a full refurb, thanks to funding received from the Department of Health and Social Care. And there was another award for our staff in Derby, with the new Emergency Department research group REMEDY winning the ‘Rising Star’ Award at the Clinical Research Network East Midlands Research Awards.

June

The Care Quality Commission’s National Inpatient Survey showed that 91% of patients who stayed overnight at our Derby campuses said they would rate the care they received as 7 out of 10 or higher. We were also delighted to see our commitment to training quality apprentices recognised, as Derby Teaching Hospitals was named Apprentice Employer of the Year at the Derby Telegraph Business Awards.

July

July represented a massively significant month for all of our staff, as we proudly began life as University Hospitals of Derby and Burton on the first day of the month, following the successful merger of Derby Teaching Hospitals and Burton Hospitals. It was quite fitting then that, just four days after the birth of our new Trust, we also celebrated all that has come before it by marking the NHS turning 70. In the midst of a heatwave, it really was a fantastic day, with BBC Radio Derby broadcasting live from our hospitals all day, as our amazing staff held a range of different cake parties.

August

We received a massive boost in August, as we received planning permission to build a Healthcare Village, including a nursery, primary care hub and residential accommodation, on surplus land at Queen’s Hospital Burton. We were also delighted to see Burton Consultant Urological Surgeon Jyoti Shah and Advanced Nurse Practitioner Sarah Minns win the regional ‘Excellence in Cancer Care’ award at the NHS 70 Parliamentary Awards for launching a campaign aimed at encouraging screening for prostate cancer.

September

September saw one of my favourite parts of the year, as we marked the achievements of our amazing staff in Derby at our annual Celebrating Success Awards at Pride Park Stadium. We really value the opinions of our staff, so we were delighted to be able to launch our Clever Together Big Conversation in September, which has seen our staff help us shape the future of our new organisation by letting us know what we’re good at and what we can do to be even better.

October

Visitors to the Royal Derby Hospital may have noticed camera crews on site, as a four-part documentary series began filming onsite in October. ‘The Great NHS Experiment’ will focus on a group of young volunteers working in different clinical areas around the hospital and is planned to be aired on BBC2 later next year. After the success of Celebrating Success, I was delighted to be able to pay tribute to our fantastic staff working across our sites in Burton, Tamworth and Lichfield, at the annual Pride Awards at Burton Albion’s Pirelli Stadium. And it was great to see Diabetes Specialist Dr Paru King recognised with the NHS England Outstanding Contribution for Services in Diabetes Award.

November

It was a pleasure to welcome Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to Queen’s Hospital Burton for the first time. Mr Hancock met frontline staff, viewed the hospital’s newly refurbished Emergency Department and we also discussed the Trust’s plans for the winter ahead during his visit. Congratulations were in order for our fantastic Governance team, who ensured we were the only NHS trust to win at the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators Awards, with the team claiming ‘Governance Project of the Year’ for the work that went into our merger. It was also great to see the fantastic work our Youth Forum does recognised, as they played host to the national Big Youth Forum Meet Up at the Royal Derby Hospital, with young people meeting up to discuss mental health and wellbeing of young people and the stigma attached.

December

We began the month with the fantastic news that our plans to build a new Healthcare Village on site at Queen’s Hospital Burton had been boosted by £21.88m in capital funding from the Department of Health and Social Care. We were delighted to invite Derby County and Burton Albion to surprise patients with Christmas presents at Derbyshire Children’s Hospital and Queen’s Hospital Burton. And it was fantastic for me to be able to end the year on a real high by going around all of our five sites to meet with our amazing staff and help judge our annual Best Dressed Ward and Department Christmas competition.

I’m sure you’ll have some of your own highlights and no doubt I’ll have missed some things out – sorry – but all in all, it’s been a pretty successful year. Well done to all of you!

No doubt the year ahead will bring its challenges – we’re living in some turbulent times as a nation. But one thing I’m sure of is that the NHS will remain the jewel in our crown as a society and I’m always proud to play a small part in something so worthwhile, that really makes a difference to the people we serve.

It’s been a tough 12 months for us all as we’ve gone through our merger and then the upheaval of putting our new arrangements in place. I know for many this will have been an anxious time and not without a little sadness.

But I’m really excited by the year ahead – we’ve got a unique opportunity to apply the talents and experience of all our people to better meet the challenges ahead and give an even better service to our communities. We must celebrate the proud histories of each of our hospitals and the unique contributions each has to make to UHDB. But it’s much more than that; together we will create something better that couldn’t have been achieved apart. One of the things that’s really struck me about our ‘Clever Together’ big conversation so far is when colleagues have talked about their personal ‘WHY?’ – that’s to say, the thing which has caused them to choose a career in health care. So many talk about a burning desire to do something that matters, that adds value to our communities, that makes a real difference to people’s lives and together that’s exactly what we’ll do!

Happy New Year!

Gavin

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