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Welcoming our new starters

Hi all

I began the week last Monday meeting all the new staff who attended our corporate induction. This is always something I enjoy; it is great to meet people who have chosen to join us at Combined and share with them what our Trust is all about, our values and our vision for the future.

It is great that the inductees are mainly clinical which represents all the progress we have made in attracting so many more staff to work here. Our vacancy rate has reduced significantly, which is a significant achievement and will be making a difference to the frontline.

We have also attracted lots of new staff to join our bank who are having a really positive impact on reducing our agency usage. You may be aware that the use of agency staff is monitored very closely by our regulators and published on a regular basis.

There are three reasons for our agency usage at the moment:

  • The temporary staff needed to bring in to help us deliver ROSE, our new electronic patient record, which goes live on 13 May.
  • The staff will be with us until July The temporary staff we have had to rely on to help us run the recently opened older people's assessment ward on Ward 4 at Harplands – at the moment we are contracted to operate this ward until the end of March
  • The use of agency staff to cover any gaps we have in running our clinical services.We have done well in reducing this expenditure, though we have more to do. We need to ensure we are all phasing our annual leave from now until the end of March so we do not use agency to cover this.

Director of Nursing and Quality, Maria Nelligan, and I spent some time last week discussing with some of our clinical directorates how we can continually strengthen our response to complaints either from service users or their families, or MPs on behalf of service users.

This has been a priority for us for some months and we have made good progress. However, there is more we can do to ensure we deal with as many complaints as possible at a team level.

Our values are to be Compassionate, Approachable, Responsible and Excellent services (Proud to CARE) and with these in mind we need to encourage service users and carers to openly feed back where they think improvements can be made.

We then need to listen in a non-defensive way, demonstrating compassion and striving to receive feedback in our quest to deliver excellence. There is good evidence that we are starting to do this.

However, when a complainant feels they want to raise their complaint to a Trust level we need to ensure we investigate it in a non-defensive way, make sure we respond in a timely fashion and demonstrate we have learnt lessons from the complaint, where appropriate, and continue to improve.

One of the themes that has come out of complaints and has been discussed at the Board from the Service User and Carer Council is ensuring that when a care co-ordinator is away from work for whatever reason the team leader ensures there is cover and a response for all service users who require support. This has been discussed in teams and improvements are evident.

Andy Rogers, our Director of Operations has asked for each clinical team to ensure this is reflected in their standing operating procedures to ensure that all patients are supported where care co-ordinators are unavailable for whatever reason.

I particularly wanted to thank staff in the Substance Misuse service for their tremendous work through the most difficult of circumstances. Despite the service facing budget cuts of over 50% from Staffordshire County Council, it has continued to operate to a high standard in supporting some of the most vulnerable in our society.

I will be arranging an open session for staff in the service with myself and other members of the Executive team to personally thank staff for their hard work, outline what we have done and continue to do as a Trust in this area and, most importantly, to hear the thoughts and concerns of staff. Both myself and Gwyn Thomas, the Digital Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) lead director met last week with a couple of our partners – Andy Donald, Chief Officer of Stafford and Surrounds Clinical Commissioning Group, and Staffordshire County Council Chief Executive John Henderson and his team.

We have made good progress with the digital workstream of the Together We’re Better STP programme and have been awarded funding from NHS England. We now need to pull in as many skills and experience as we can to ensure the delivery of our key priorities, hence the meetings with senior officers across the patch. Our Trust Board was held on Thursday, where I was delighted to present the Team Spotlight award to the One Recovery team.

One Recovery supports people experiencing addiction to drink and/or drugs and is a partnership of the Trust, Changes, Brighter Futures, Arch Housing and ADS, which leads on the service. It is based out of Leek, Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stafford, Cannock, Burton-upon-Trent and Tamworth and really lives our values of Proud to CARE.

Our Individual Spotlight award went to Cath Raper and Bev Holding as joint Team Leaders for the Access and Home Treatment Team. Bev and Cath have led the team through significant change and have worked tirelessly to lead this change with enthusiasm while also setting high standards for the delivery of high quality, safe care.

Both are respected and well regarded by colleagues; they have always made their managers immensely proud and will continue to be a great asset to the team and the Trust as a whole. At the meeting we bid a happy retirement to John Hancock, Care Coordinator, who has retired after 35 years, Sarah Williams, Staff Nurse, and Dawn Ainsworth, Clinical Placement Coordinator, who have both retired after 33 years, Lynda O’Reilly, Senior Telephonist/ Reception Supervisor, who has retired after 19 years, and Health Care Support Worker Sukbinder Kaur, who has retired after 12 years with the Trust.

We wish them all the very best for the next chapter of their lives.​

About the author

Welcome to my blog.

My name is Caroline Donovan and I am the Chief Executive of North Staffordshire Combined Healthcare NHS Trust.

If you would like to provide feedback on any of my posts, please email ceoblog@northstaffs.nhs.uk