New contract wins amongst CQC deadlines

Hi all

Last week was preoccupied with gathering all the data that the CQC requested as part of the preparation for their next visit. We need to submit over 200 returns – many requiring detailed narrative.


Our staff and teams across the Trust pulled out all the stops to ensure we were able to submit the CQC data return on time. I know this has been a huge effort, as myself and the Executive Team worked through each and every return. I am enormously grateful to everyone who supported the mammoth process. The burden of information requests was from corporate teams who did really well to turn around the requests in the short time we were given. Although it is an enormous task and ask for us all, it was really pleasing to see the continued improvement that we were able to evidence since the last inspection. Our improvement journey continues and we still have progress to make to achieve our vision of being outstanding in all that we do and how we do it.

The CQC inspections we have had to date have helped us to continually improve and we need to approach this next one with a mindset of showing the inspection team continued progress, demonstrating the dedication and commitment shown by our staff.

A very big thank you to everyone for their input into this work – it really is appreciated. I will, of course, keep you all updated as our progress continues and as soon as we know more about the timetable from the CQC for next steps.


Hot on the heels of their recent success in securing the contract from Stoke City Council for Community Drug and Alcohol Services, our Substance Misuse Team have been successful again.

I am pleased to tell you that working in a partnership of three organisations, the team have won a new contract for the delivery of health services at Stoke Heath Prison. The five-year contract – which was commissioned by NHS England – begins in April 2019 and includes a potential two-year extension that would take it to 2026.

It sees North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust teaming up with Shropcom and The Forward Trust to form what is being called the Stoke Heath Integrated Care partnership (SHIC), with Shropcom taking the lead. The partnership brings together three exceptionally experienced, passionate and proven healthcare providers with extensive experience, safely and seamlessly transitioning services.

Combined will deliver secondary mental health and clinical substance misuse services. All three organisations already deliver health services at the prison, near Market Drayton, but the new contract involves the introduction of a new model of care that will be shaped over the next six months in the run-up to the launch on 1 April.

As a Trust, we have been proud of our successful delivery of Substance Misuse services and we are excited to extend our service offer to include Mental Health services within the prison. We know how important it is to respond positively to Mental Health conditions, whatever the environment and setting.


Rob Sillito was interviewed this month by Stuart George on BBC Radio Stoke. The main focus on the interview was to promote health care and social care staff to get their free flu jab. It was also a chance to encourage the general public to seek out more information about the flu jab.

Rob discussed who is eligible for a free Jab – these being people over 65, children, people with some chronic medical conditions (e.g. diabetes, chronic heart disease, COPD) and also healthcare and social care staff. He also discussed how people can get their flu jab by speaking to infection control or Team Prevent. He then went on to discuss the importance of staff getting the flu jab – for protecting ourselves, other staff, family and most importantly protecting the patients we are caring for. Finally, he dispelled people’s false beliefs that the flu jab can give you the flu or a cold and explained that the flu jab has a killed virus in, and this makes the body produce antibodies and when we are exposed to the flu virus in the flu season, our body is ready to fight the virus.

Combined Healthcare will be kicking off our flu campaign on the 5 October with a 24-hour Jabathon, with a member of staff roaming and giving as many staff as possible the flu vaccine throughout the day and night. Can I please urge all staff to get their jab as soon as possible.


As you know, one of our most important priorities is improving the support for our BAME workforce. I was therefore really pleased to chair the first meeting of our Inclusion Council. I heard heartbreaking stories from our own BAME staff about their personal experiences of racism from either service users or from our own staff. One very brave nurse who worked in our services has shared her story with us which a local poet has interpreted – it makes very powerful watching! I would really like each and every one of us to take a few minutes to watch the video below. It demonstrates that we have much to do to make Combined a diverse and welcoming organisation for all.

We collectively identified the five key areas for action for us as a trust below:

  1. Developing our HR Processes for inclusion – including recruitment and selection; disciplinary and grievance; workforce equality info processes; bank and agency staff (building in inclusion from start to finish of the process)

  2. Supporting the development of our BAME staff – developing equal and inclusive access to career, leadership and education  development opportunities 

  3. Reporting, learning and improving following incidents and incidences of racist abuse and aggression (both preventing incidents as far as possible and responding better, and supporting people better when incidents do happen) 

  4. Culture of Inclusion – developing clear standards of expected and unacceptable behaviour (policies, training, leadership styles, service user involvement ). Addressing how we treat each other day-to-day; inclusive treatment of colleagues; addressing micro-assaults and inequalities). Also considering religion and culture, food, etc.

  5. Communication for inclusion – delivering clear communication, including: feedback from staff (including trainees); BAME network; engaging with our agency staff; events; posters; BAME champions; app to gather staff experiences on exit – and starting with #WearRedDay #19Oct #ShowRacismTheRedCard

I am delighted that we have BAME Leaders  sponsoring each of our programmes who will work alongside each of the project managers to ensure co-production. I have given a personal commitment that each BAME leader will be released from their workplace to enable us to truly develop our improvements in partnership.

We all have a responsibility to speak out if we observe any behaviours which are not congruent with our values and I personally ask you to discuss diversity and inclusion within your team meetings and seek the views and support of teams to stamp out racism.


Last week, I was really pleased that we had a strong field of candidates from which we were able to offer the Assistant CEO role to an experienced Director. This is a new role for which the Board had recognised the need – particularly with my role increasingly demanding as I focus on the leadership of pan-Staffordshire STP priorities. The post will lead on corporate governance and quality improvement, working very closely with other Executive Directors. It will also lead on Freedom to Speak Up and Communications. As soon as I am able to, I will share who has been appointed.

It is with truly mixed emotions I let you know that Suzanne Robinson, our Director of Finance, Digital and Performance, is leaving us. She has been appointed as Director of Finance at Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, which provides Mental Health & Community services across Greater Manchester. Whilst we are very sad to see Suzanne leave the Trust, we are extremely proud that she has been appointed to the role, which is a promotion for Suzanne and incredibly well deserved. This opportunity also allows Suzanne to continue working in the mental health sector of the NHS which she has come to love, but removes the significant commute from the North West each day that she has been doing since 2016.

Suzanne has been an extremely highly valued member of the Trust Board and Executive Team and has made a significant contribution to increasing the profile and understanding of finance across the Trust, leading her teams to achieve a number of awards and recognitions. She will also be stepping down from her position as STP Director of Finance over the coming weeks and I know Simon Whitehouse, STP Director, and Sir Neil Mckay, STP Independent Chair, will join me in thanking her for her contribution.

Although we will greatly miss her, we wish her every success in the future. We won’t be losing her quite yet and I’ll keep you updated with plans for her replacement in due course.

It is also time for us to advertise for a substantive Director of Strategy and Development post. As you will be aware, Andrew Hughes has worked with us since the summer last year on a fixed-term contract. Andrew has always been clear that he did not want to take up a substantive role, as he has worked as a consultant across the health sector as well as various other roles, including being a trustee on the Teenage Cancer Trust.

We have been incredibly lucky to have Andrew working with us over the last four years. His first stint was in 2015-2016 and again more recently from summer 2017. He has been very well regarded and his leadership of business development has resulted in successful tender bids. He has also taken a key role in supporting the development of the North Staffordshire Alliance Board. He is not leaving us yet, but you will see the advert for his replacement advertised, which we have decided to call Director of Partnerships and Strategy reflecting the high priority the Trust places on working with our partners. I know you will join me in thanking Andrew for the enormous amount of commitment and dedication he has shown in this role.


It’s that time of year again!

You – our staff – are our most valuable resource and ensuring the Trust is a great place to work is essential. Your staff survey feedback is crucial for us to understand what we are doing well and where we can further improve.

Following feedback from last year, you identified areas for us to improve, resulting in;

  • Focussed work on Diversity and Inclusion and specifically on how to improve the experiences of staff from a BAME background
  • 16 teams supported to complete our Towards Outstanding Engagement programme
  • A quality improvement approach to encourage greater empowerment of teams to make improvements
  • Refreshed being open and raising concerns at work through the Freedom to Speak up Guardian
  • Medical staff development programme
  • The launch of our first care conference for frontline staff, which included an LiA big conversation

Last year, we achieved a response rate of 52% and, whilst this is higher than the national average, we want to increase this even further! We have incentives to encourage as many people as possible to take part:

  • For teams reaching their target response rate, they will automatically be entered into a prize draw to receive £250 to spend on a team-focussed priority
  • Staff will have dedicated time off for completing the survey
  • Roaming polling stations, providing space to complete surveys, with staff on hand to provide IT support
  • All survey responses will be strictly confidential. Personal details and your individual responses will remain with Quality Health, which is external to the Trust.

There are so many good reasons to take part – so please, don’t delay. Keep an eye out for the invitation to take part in your e-mail inbox or in the post!

On a personal note, I was delighted this weekend to become the proud grandparent of a little beautiful baby boy. I have had loads of cuddles and kisses this weekend, which has been delicious and reminded me what life is all about!