A Week Full of Firsts

It’s been a week full of firsts as I continue to become acquainted with our staff and our services, and introduce myself to some key stakeholders in our community. 

Having the Freedom to Speak Up Matters to all of us

The importance of giving staff the outlets to raise concerns they have about staff or patient safety cannot be underestimated. Last week, I got the chance to meet with our Freedom to Speak Up (FTSU) Guardian, Zoe Grant, to consult on some of the recent concerns that have been brought to her attention, outline and discuss the actions and what the next steps should be.  We also formed a plan to spread the FTSU message further. We now have 10 FTSU Champions, as well as Zoe, who have take on this additional role in the Trust, which is completely independent from their core job. These 10 members of staff provide such an important purpose for us – and we want to assure staff that any concern they raise with our Champions or with Zoe is treated with strict confidentiality. So look out for more from the FTSU team, as they continue to become more visible across the Trust. 

Edward Myers Unit Visit

I was delighted to visit the Edward Myers Unit this last week, where I met some of the fantastic staff who work there. Their commitment to the service and its patients shone through, which is a pattern so clear throughout the Trust – time and time again, I’m seeing how each and every one of our staff are what form our Outstanding services, and staff at Edward Myers are no exception.

I learned about the challenged the team faces and how important partnership working is for the unit. Not only are they closely linked with the acute hospital, but they support the A&E service with patients that come through their doors, relieving some of their pressures. 

The relationships that are already in place between Edward Myers and substance misuse services in the community are so important to the recovery process, but the team are keen to take a more proactive approach, working together with these groups to provide a preventative set of services. This approach is at the heart of where we strive to be to ensure that we can help people whatever stage of recovery they are at.

My First Trust Board

This week saw my first Trust Board meeting, where I observed one of the ways we show gratitude to present staff via the REACH Awards, learned about a patient’s experience of using our services, and was updated on Trust-wide developments such as finance and performance targets – noting the challenges that remain for 2019/20 – and the not-yet-finalised contracting discussions with Clinical Commissioning Group commissioners. 

The REACH Recognition Team award this month went to the Specialist Children’s Short Breaks Service for meeting Ofsted requirements, achieving ‘Improved Effectiveness’ status and improving outcomes for children. The service provides overnight short breaks for children/young people 5-19 years old with a severe learning disability and other complex needs. During the stays, the children and young people have the opportunity to have fun with peers, completing activities inside and outside the unit. The staff-support them to gain independence and reach their full potential.

Caring, positive relationships are developed between staff and children and their families. The service aims to meet both health and social care needs and provide parents with the opportunity to take a break from their caring role, recharge their batteries and spend quality time with siblings. This helps to prevent family breakdown and reduces the number of looked after children.

Improvements have been made in line with the nine Ofsted quality standards and the service is still to be re-inspected, when the team hope to achieve a ‘Good’ rating. All children and young people accessing the service have benefited through:

  • improved communication following children’s preferred communication methods
  • increased opportunities for creative play, creating an environment more appealing to children and provided a vibrant, accessible outdoor play area
  • strengthening multi-agency working
  • collaborative working with schools
  • ensuring safe recruitment and improved staffing levels
  • developing better informed, child centred, accessible support plans, and; 
  • increasing the knowledge of staff.

The Patient Story element of the Trust Board meeting offers a great platform to learn about individual service user experiences with Combined Healthcare in a direct and honest way, giving us the opportunity to learn from their feedback. 

This month’s Patient Story was one which has recently featured on our Podcast channel – Combinations. The story of Matthew is told by his mother, Jackie, who describes the care and support she and her son received at the Assessment and Treatment Unit.

Matthew has autism and severe learning disabilities, and was heartening to hear how our staff have reassured their family during a difficult time in their lives. Once again, it was testament to the dedication of individual team members who go above and beyond every day for our service users.You can listen to the podcast here. 

Regulator Introductions

Our Chair, David Rogers, and I met with NHS Improvement to review a variety of topics, and it was a really positive meeting. They complimented us on our Outstanding status and noted that we are performing well across many areas. We looked at the challenges the Trust faces and had an open and frank discussion about what we’re doing to address them.   

Council Connections

On Friday, I met with Paul Edmondson-Jones MBE, Director of Social Care, Health Integration and Wellbeing (pictured), and Peter Tomlin, Assistant Director of Adult Social Care, both from Stoke-on-Trent Council.  The Trust has a long-standing and strong relationship with the council, so I was looking forward to introducing myself to Paul and Peter in order to continue our partnership work.

It was a very productive meeting – we were all clear on how we intend to move forward to improve seamless care for our communities, utilising local mechanisms such as multi-disciplinary teams. 

We also touched on how we can work to evolve the North Staffordshire Alliance Board to focus more on delivering more service improvements.