A week of external recognition for our staff

This was a week where we took further significant steps forward on our inclusion and openness agendas, and were able to celebrate significant external recognition for the efforts of our staff.


It was both a pleasure and a privilege to chair the second meeting of our Inclusion Council in the middle of the week. The Council is one of the important initiatives we have established to ramp up our activities and determination to make Combined truly inclusive and equal in the way we treat and support our staff and service users.

We heard some fantastic ideas from our newly established work stream leads and the energy in the room was palpable. To remind you, our five initial workstreams are:

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

One of the most striking parts of the meeting was a presentation about the apparent disconnect between the proportion of applicants from BAME backgrounds for posts at Combined compared with the proportion eventually offered jobs. We agreed we should conduct a further deep dive into the processes and data underlying the presentation to see where and how we may need to improve our recruitment training and awareness of those appointing to posts – to see if unconscious bias is playing a part or what else we could do to redress the apparent imbalance.

We also agreed that though our initial particular focus for the first six months of the Inclusion Council’s work will be primarily on the BAME agenda, it will be really important to bear in mind the need for our Inclusion programme to incorporate all aspects of inequality, for example in LGBT.

We also took the opportunity, as did a number of teams across the Trust, to celebrate Diwali with lights and food. It was a lovely way to mark the occasion.

I will continue to keep everyone updated on progress and you should see some fabulous outputs from the Council’s work in the coming weeks and months.



We continue to make great progress with the NHS Staff Survey with staff in Workforce and Leadership putting everyone to shame by posting a perfect 100% return rate!

They are closely followed by Finance, Performance and Digital and staff working in Nursing and Quality. At the other end of the table, there’s plenty of opportunity for staff working in NOAP and in Adult Mental Health In-patient to move up the ranks. So can I urge anyone who hasn’t yet done so to complete their survey. It’s really important that we hear from as many staff as possible from as many different parts of our operations and activities.

For staff who have yet to complete their survey, the polling booth roadshow is still on the move, with someone on hand to help you. The following dates are coming up:

  • Wednesday 14 November – Assessment & Treatment, 12–2pm
  • Wednesday 21 November – Edward Myers, 1.30–3pm
  • TBC – North Staffs CAMHS Dragon Square

Don’t forget about the £250 prize draw for teams with a high response rate, which can be spent on a team-focused priority, so rally up your team to take part, too! Read our FAQ page to learn more. 

A reminder that your feedback and responses are completely anonymous, so please be honest with us in your responses. It will only take 10 minutes or so to finish, so please dig out the email from survey@quality-health.co.uk with the subject line: North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust 2018 NHS Staff Survey: Invitation



I was delighted to visit the Dragons Square team last week to hear more about the fantastic work they are doing supporting children, young people and their families. They were a really committed team who were buzzing with thoughts and ideas for ongoing improvements. One of the issues we discussed was ensuring we have clear visible leadership in each of our CAMHS community teams after the restructure. The team leader roles are being advertised this week. One of the important priorities we are working on is reviewing the demand and capacity of teams in the new structure. Dave Norcup within our performance team has done a superb job at creating a wonderful tool for us – well done Dave and thanks very much. Thanks to the CAMHS team for making me so welcome and openly discussing the issues they have.



Our latest Board Development session was led by colleagues from our partners AQuA (the Advancing Quality Alliance) and focussed on our efforts to become truly outstanding in creating the right culture so that everyone fells part of our improvement journey to become outstanding in all we do and how we do it. As a Board it is essential that our culture is open and supportive. We recently asked AQuA to work with our front line staff to hear from them what their experiences of our culture is. The feedback was positive which is encouraging with more to do in terms of communication style with our staff. Sometimes the language we are using is strategic and can be not as relevant to our front line staff so thank-you for the feedback and we will be working with our comms team to see how we can get better.

One of the major themes we discussed is the importance of ensuring that when people speak up, that they see that something positive has happened as a result of them doing so. Through Dear Caroline we share what actions we have taken but again we are going to see how we can strengthen messages about what has changed and include our freedom to speak up champions. What we would really like  is for teams to be discussing these issues on a regular basis as part of their team meetings and looking at how things have improved as a result of being expressing views, some  things can happen immediately, or sometimes the benefit can be many weeks or months down the line.



Regular visitors to Lawton House will have been greeted over the past few weeks with a fantastic display in our reception. The “Darwin Dress” is one of a set of really imaginative creations by a team led by Amanda Smith at the Darwin Centre.

The dress was originally produced to mark World Mental Health Awareness Day. The team began thinking about how mental health can be a hidden illness. That we may appear to be perfectly fine on the outside, but beyond the layers we may feel anxious, depressed, frightened or confused.

They discussed this and decided to make a dress mostly out of paper, because they thought it was a good medium to use, as it is fragile and well suited to the purpose. They also found quotes and wrote their own about mental health. The meaning behind the whole activity was to reinforce to others and themselves that mental health can be hidden and a message to all not to judge a book by its cover.

The dress is actually made from copies of The Sentinel newspaper and when the paper got to hear about it, they despatched one of their photographers down to take a picture of Amanda with the dress and featured it in the paper!



Our determination to be amongst the very best in the NHS in our use of digital continues unabated and there is now a further opportunity for staff to play a leading role in our ROSE Digital Programme.

We’re looking to recruit ROSE Champions to help us continue to improve our Lorenzo system and work with us to make Combined a true NHS Digital Exemplar.

When we implemented our new Electronic Patient Record back in May 2017, our army of ROSE ‘Super Users’ were one of the most important factors in the successful deployment of the system – which drew praise from NHS Digital at the time as being one of the most successfully managed implementations they had seen in the NHS.

18 months on, we’re looking to refresh our approach and as part of this we’re looking to build on the ‘Super Users” role and make it a “Champion” for digital excellence. These will be hugely important roles and a great opportunity for individuals across the Trust to get dedicated skills training not just on Lorenzo, but also in Digital Technology in general.

Our new Champions will help develop our systems, support staff on the ground where they are struggling and work with the Executive and Digital Leadership teams to develop new digital solutions and training packages. We’ll provide all the necessary support and training to fulfil this role.  If you’re interested, please e-mail Lesley Birkin, Clinical Systems Manager for more information.  We’d love to have you on board!



Regular readers of my blog or those who get involved with the Trust via our social media channels will know that our fabulous Finance Team are no strangers to being shortlisted or winners at Awards, but this month they excelled even by their own high standards.

It was absolutely fabulous to see the shortlist for the national HFMA Healthcare Finance Awards.  In a year when the HFMA received record numbers of nominations, Combined made the final shortlist in not one – but two – categories.

Our Executive Director of Finance, Performance and Digital – Suzanne Robinson – has been shortlisted in the category of Finance Director of Year.

And her Deputy – Mike Newton – is one of only four shortlisted for the post of Deputy Finance Director of the Year.

For Combined to have beaten off record competition to secure both of these accolades is truly remarkable and only goes to show what tremendous strength in depth we have throughout our Finance Team.

Fingers crossed for the announcement of winners and, very many congratulations to all concerned for this stunning success.



You will have seen the announcement yesterday from our Chairman, David Rogers, that I have been appointed Chief Executive at Lancashire Care Foundation Trust, a  provider of Mental Health & Community services across Lancashire.

As David said, I will have worked as part of the Combined family for nearly 10 years by the time I leave and it has really felt like being part of a family.  I am truly proud of what we have achieved together, dramatically improving the quality of the services we provide, establishing a culture of openness and compassion, and all the time sustaining financial balance.

It has been an honour and a wonderful  privilege to be able to lead the Trust through such a period of change and improvement. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved together which has only been realised by our dedicated and committed staff working with Service Users, Carers and Partners . I will look forward to watching the Trust achieve its ambition to be Outstanding in all it does and how it does it. An enormous thank-you to everyone who has supported me on a personal level – I have made many wonderful friendships that I will always treasure.  I am not planning to go just yet – we are advertising the role hopefully this week and I am planning to leave in the Spring.