The first full week back after Christmas is always a challenging one for the NHS. The specific reason is never entirely clear but experience shows that there is always a big surge in people needing our help in an emergency. We know this happens every year and, together with our partners across the local health economy, we plan to meet this demand. But the last week really has been exceptional, with high numbers of patients needing an admission to either Queen’s Hospital Burton or the Royal Derby and the acuity – the severity of the presenting condition – has been extremely high.

We’ve particularly seen large numbers of frail and elderly people with underlying health conditions which have deteriorated and large numbers of people with respiratory related illness – not just flu.  I’ve been overwhelmed this week by the stories I’ve heard about our colleagues who’ve gone above and beyond to make sure that our patients are safe and received good care. Many of our people have stayed long past the end of their shifts just to help out and many have come in early to relieve colleagues. It’s at times like these that you realise that people who work in health care are a special breed – when the chips are down, they always seem to be there to do whatever it takes to look after our patients. It’s humbling.

But despite the challenges, there’s also been much good humour and in spending time with colleagues at the sharp end, people seem to have managed to keep smiling. What’s also been impressive is the way that we’ve looked after each other – when it’s tough we realise that we all need the support of the colleagues around us. A lovely example was Lee, our General Manager in the Emergency Department, who got a bunch of flowers this week from one of our consultants just to say thank you. I suspected he’s not accustomed to receiving flowers from colleagues but it’s the thought that counts!

When you think about winter pressures, we of course think of those areas at the front of the hospital – our emergency departments and acute assessment units – but it really is a whole team effort from all within our acute hospitals, our community hospitals and also our partners in the wider health and care community. I’d just like to say a special thanks to two particular groups who are often unsung heroes here at RDH and at QHB too. Our Discharge Teams have worked amazingly hard this week to ensure that those patients who are ready to go can return home safely and with the right help and support they need. It was a pleasure to meet up with the QHB Discharge Team this week and I was really impressed by their enthusiasm and great ideas to improve services in the future.

I also caught up with Lisa Marshall, who leads the Integrated Discharge Team at RDH. Her team comes from a range of organisations, including DCHS – the community services provider – and our two local authorities, Derbyshire County and Derby City. It was great to talk to Jane Haywood, who recently won a national award as the Team Leader of the Year in the National Social Work awards.  Jane told me that she’d started her day with an early morning visit to a patient’s home to move around the furniture to make it possible for them to come home. She said that this sort of thing is no-one’s job really but if it doesn’t get done then patients can’t get home. So, she went along to do this; allowing that patient to be discharged. This was obviously good news for that particular patient but also meant that a bed was released for the next emergency waiting in ED for admission. Well done to our discharge teams – it’s been a fantastic effort from you all this week!

I popped into the new modular ward at RDH on Monday morning just to check that the work was on track – I’m happy to say that we’re expecting the additional 28 beds to be available from 24 January 2019. Work is already underway to develop a similar facility at QHB – we’ve had to take out a few staff parking spaces to do the work and so thank you to colleagues for being patient there. Thanks to all my QHB colleagues who came to our breakfast meet-up this week.  It was a great opportunity to talk about their issues and ideas. The bacon butties were an extra bonus!

It was good to see the publication of the Long Term Plan for the NHS this week. One of the big themes is the move towards greater integration between different health providers, but also social care and voluntary services too. The Integrated Discharge Team mentioned above is a perfect example of this sort of thing – as you know, I’m really proud to be part of the NHS and I’ve always believed that it’s at its best when all its parts work together, so this direction of travel sounds just about right to me.

Talking of working with our local partners – it was a pleasure to join the Governing Body of East Staffordshire CCG on Thursday to update them on our work following the merger. We were able to talk about the progress that we’re making in forming the new organisation, but also particularly moving forward on some of the benefits for patients that were set out in our original proposal. One area of particular focus was stroke services and how the new organisation will deliver better care for local people, improving outcomes and reducing mortality. Also on the CCG’s agenda was the business case for this new model of service, which I’m delighted to say was approved in principal. The CCG now require a Quality Impact Assessment prior to it being considered by the Scrutiny Committee of Staffordshire County Council – they’ve a responsibility to ensure that any significant changes to local health services are in the best interests of the public.

So, all in all, it’s been a challenging week but with lots of examples of our amazing colleagues going the extra mile for our patients. The incredible commitment of our people to do the very best for the communities we serve has been nothing short of inspiring this week. I thank you all.

Gavin

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