Symphony of Hidden Voices brought diverse stories to life

Hi all

This was a week which contained the widest range of news – achievements, challenges and significant developments.


I know it may seem like only yesterday that we were celebrating the results of our latest CQC inspection.

As we said at the time, the CQC results confirmed that the Trust’s journey of improvement – labelled by the CQC as the fastest improving mental health trust in the country – had continued without let-up.  We also said we are not complacent and we want our journey of improvement to continue.

Since then, as you will know, we have done just that, particularly with our move towards locality working and our continuing leadership of key workstreams in the Together We’re Better STP.

I know the amount of effort that goes into supporting a CQC inspection, particularly in the middle of major change and transformation can seem a challenge. So I know it will come as mixed news to be able to let you know that we have received a request from CQC for our Routine Provider Information Request – something we have to complete annually as part of the new well-led inspection regime. This also serves as an announcement that we will receive an inspection within 6 months.

We are required to submit our provider information request (PIR) with over 200 returns by 21 September. The requests are split between qualitative (narrative information requests) and quantitative (numerical data requests).  Key operational and corporate leads are now working on the data requests to ensure the return is an accurate reflection of our services and Trust performance. We also have do to our own self-assessment of our 11 core services which each of the Directorate teams are leading.

Teams across the Trust have already begun mobilising to provide the updated data and many thanks to everyone who have responded to the initial requests.  We will, of course, be providing ongoing updates and support as the inspection approaches.

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 the wonderful work you do day in day out and the enormous amount of dedication and commitment that our wonderful staff show.


One of the parts of my job I love the most is visiting our clinical services. It was a pleasure and a privilege to visit our in-patient LD services with one of our Non-executive Director Gan Mahadea as part of our Board engagement programme. We were both really impressed with the environment and the service, we enjoyed meeting the team and service users. A particular thanks to the Matron Jessica Fitzgerald who was so positive and service user centred – well done to all the team.


I was delighted to be chairing a fantastic regional mental health conference last week. The conference focused on sharing good practice with nearly all of our trusts across the region showcasing different services and innovations. Combined shared the work we have done on compassionate leadership. The event was opened by the Feel Good Choir – a community choir who were fantastic and talked to us about the importance of connection and wellbeing. We were also really pleased that Clare Murdoch,  National Mental Health Director for NHS England, came to talk to us about progress of the mental health national strategy and thoughts for future priorities.


I was delighted last Friday to be able to open the Second Staffordshire Symphony of Hidden Voices. The inclusion conference which was chaired by Jenny Harvey our staff side chair was absolutely fabulous – I spent the whole day there listening to incredible real life stories and insights:

  • life as a British-born nurse, health expert, tutor, lecturer and medical professor of Irish and Nigerian descent by Professor Dame Elizabeth Anionwu;
  • growing up as a young black man in the West Midlands in the aftermath of Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech, by Roger McKenzie, Assistant General Secretary Unison
  • how it was to live as a gay man before decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1967 and to have recovered from AIDS, by Maurice Greenham, Older People’s LGBT Group;
  • fascinating stories of living with a learning disability from service users in the Combined Healthcare Talk and Change Group
  • insight into the work of Trans Staffordshire from Kirsty Lewis;
  • discussion of the complexity of how different identities intersect with LGBT inclusion from Emma Jennings, Stonewall
  • stories of how deafness can introduce particular challenges in living with and providing support for people with mental health issues, from Julia Grint, Community Psychiatric Nurse

One particular highlight were two contributions from local poet Gabriella Gay. The second of her poems was an incredibly powerful piece about coping with racism in the workplace – which itself was based on the true life experience of a nurse working at Combined.  It was truly humbling and painful to hear of her experiences.  It is essential we learn and improve from them.

We also were proud to give the Unison Award for Equality and Inclusion to Stevan Thompson.

Of course, hearing about challenges and gaining insights means nothing if we don’t act on what we hear. We will be working through all we have heard and coming forward with a very detailed plan of action, building on the work we have already undertaken on diversity and inclusion.  I will of course, let you all know about our progress in this area.

In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy a fantastic contribution from the Deaflinks BSL ‘Choir’ that kicked off what was a truly powerful day.  You can watch this in the video below.




The Executive Team spent some time last week saying goodbye to Alex Brett who, as you know, if off to pastures new but will continue to work closely with us through our STP work. We were pleased to thank Alex by taking her out for some lovely food!

Linda Holland is starting to do some days with us during September and October and will commence full time at the beginning of November. In the meantime the HR function will be led by Jonathan O’Brian, Communications by Buki Adeyemo and Organisational Development by myself. Thanks for your support Alex and good luck.