Despite planning for the seasonal increase in medical emergency admissions, there’s always immense pressure placed on our front line staff at this time of year. I’ve been so impressed by the flexibility and commitment of all of our people in rising to this challenge; delivering good care under difficult circumstances. Thanks, in particular, to colleagues in our EDs, MIUs and Acute Assessment Units, who are absolutely at the sharp end. I’ve heard lots of incredible stories of our people going above and beyond to fill in unexpected gaps in rotas etc. and so empathically putting our patients first. But this is also a whole Trust challenge and everybody’s pulling together, whether that’s in our general wards, our diagnostic and therapy services, our operational managers and our portering and housekeeping colleagues – everybody is playing a part.

Many of our wards, particularly in surgery, gynaecology and orthopaedics, have reallocated beds to the medical specialities to help manage this surge, with our doctors in Medicine specialities changing how they work to support this extra capacity. Thank you for being so adaptable. Two of our orthopaedic wards – Ward 206 at RDH and Ward 19 at QHB – have converted entirely to medicine during this time – your commitment to helping our patients is really appreciated.

Our community hospitals too are playing an important role supporting the discharge of patients from the two acute hospitals, by helping to create space there so that we can continue to admit emergencies. At LRCH, we’ve opened an additional ward, Ward 2, and at Sir Robert Peel Community Hospital, Peel Ward has also allocated additional beds for this reason. Again, this can only happen through the good will and commitment of our people who seem ever prepared to go the extra mile.

But don’t just hear it from me – this is a quote from an email I had from a grateful family member yesterday:

“Simply put, you are ALL awesome and wonderful and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the loving care you showered on my mum and for your exceptional skill which brought her speedily home where she needed to be by the side of my ancient father (93) in an unbelievably short time. We cannot thank you enough for your superb efforts. Words seem strangely inadequate to convey our appreciation and thanks.”

It was a pleasure to call into our Medical Assessment Unit at RDH yesterday to spend a bit of time with Senior Sister Sarah Guy and her fabulous team. MAU receives acute medical patients from GPs and also from our ED department – this is one of our most pressured areas but nevertheless Sarah and her team always seem to manage a smile and keep their good humour. I was delighted to meet Muriel – no, not a new member of the ward team, but actually our latest high tech gadget, which is able to diagnose flu within minutes in the department itself. Traditionally, these tests have been done in the Path Lab and take hours – this new device enables us to make a rapid diagnosis, which can help us discharge patients who perhaps would have been admitted, but also helps us to quickly put in place infection control measures to protect other patients.

I enjoyed meeting Sister Julia Leese earlier in the week on Ward 16 at QHB – Julia’s ward has been repurposed to receive acute medical patients who can be managed rapidly and discharged home; avoiding a long hospital stay. Increased medical support has been put in place to help enable this new way of working. Julia was incredibly enthusiastic about the new role of Ward 16 and how this was helping to maintain patient flow through QHB.

As you know, we’re also planning to open an additional modular ward at RDH later this month and work has begun next to the Treatment Centre at QHB to install a similar ward there later this year. We’ve lost some staff parking spaces as a result this week, so thank you to QHB colleagues for being so understanding – we’re hoping our plans for increased parking at QHB will come to fruition during the coming year – so please bear with us!

In other news – I was bowled over by a presentation by Mr Sherif Awad, one of our bariatric surgeons, at our Quality Committee this week. Blog readers might remember that I joined Sherif and his theatre team at RDH during one of their operating lists a few months back and I was amazed by their systematic approach to improving every aspect of the quality and efficiency of their service. The benefit of this approach was brought home so powerfully with a patient story about a young man whose life had been brought to a halt as a result of chronic obesity. He had grown to 50 stone and had become completely house bound. Following surgery and pre and post-operative support from Sherif and the team, as well as his own determination, he was able to lose nearly half his body weight and regain control over his life. It was a great example of how a partnership between patient and clinical team can have truly amazing results.

Also this week, we had our People Committee, which looks at all aspects of how we develop and take care of our people. Dr Neil Pease, Executive Director of Workforce, shared with us an approach being adopted at another Trust, MerseyCare, which provides mental health services in and around Liverpool. That Trust has focussed on developing a ‘Just Culture’ – that is to say one that has fairness and respect at its heart. This really resonated with me. There was much in common with what you all said during our Big Conversation about values and behaviours. One of the important outputs of our CleverTogether work will be the development of how we should behave towards each other as colleagues to help all of us, including me, to do the right thing and to be accountable for it. I’m really looking forward to sharing with you in a couple of weeks the analysis, based on all of your comments. You’ll have another opportunity to say what’s “strong, wrong and missing”, but this important work will form the foundation of our way forward in this New Year and beyond.

I have a feeling that this weekend might be another challenging one in relation to emergency demand and so I finish where I began in thanking all of our colleagues who are working so hard at the moment keeping our patients safe.

Best wishes and Happy New Year.

Gavin

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