Why co-design will help to provide better care for locals

It has been another hectic but productive week across a whole range of areas – both internal to Combined Healthcare and across the system as a whole.


We are pleased to be working in partnership with AQuA to develop and produce a leadership development programme starting on 4 April, aimed at our newly formed senior leadership team following our locality restructure. There will be two cohorts including approximately 45 key senior leaders from across the organisation, supporting them to lead new ways of working across our new directorates, helping to ensure we provide better care to people living in our local communities.

There is a co-design event happening this Wednesday 25 February where participants of the programme have been invited to help shape how the programme will run. Co-design is important to us, ensuring the programme helps to engage those attending the programme so it is delivered in the way that is going to have most impact.

This approach can be used in so many aspects of what we do here at Combined. An Executive will be attending the start of each session to share their experiences, but most importantly listen to the experiences of participants on the programme as to what their key learning has been and how they are going to be applying this into their new roles.


As I flagged up in my blog last week, we have continued to be involved in detailed discussions with the STP all week about how the mental health aspect of the Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent STP can deliver towards a system-wide sustainable financial position and credible plan for 2019/20.

The mental health discussions to date have been about investing in mental health and we have now decided that, through the investments that are continually going in, we need to identify how they can release costs wherever possible.

A particular priority is going to be to continue our focus on out-of-area spend where service users are being treated out of area. We have been successful in the last 18 months or so in caring for some service users closer to home, which is much more positive in enabling support from family and friends.

We are also exploring how the project for service users who use services in a repeated way – either in UHNM or our Trusts – could be expanded. Again, providing the right support to people in their home setting can prevent them needing to use emergency services, which reduced expenditure and improves the service user experience.

The final area is exploring how our work with service users accessing UHNM with alcohol-related needs could be better supported – potentially by accessing our in-patient facilities when in a crisis.

We will be presenting our outline business cases on Friday 1 March 2019.

I would like to thank those staff involved in pulling together credible business cases in a short period of time. I will,of course, share with you the outcome once the STP plans are finalised over the next few weeks.


I am pleased that we will be advertising a senior role this week, leading on transformation and being Jonathan’s deputy. This important post will then build a small team which will lead on our approach to improvement within the directorates.

Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Trust will also be working closely with us as we learn from the excellent work they have done.


I attended the Health and Care Transformation Board last week and presented on our system-wide Zero Suicide Charter.

Suicide is a leading cause of death among men aged 15-24 and the second most common cause of death for people aged less than 35. In the West Midlands, suicide rates have fallen from 12 per 100,000 population to 10. Across Staffordshire and Stoke, we can expect 150 suicides per year.

The Zero Suicide Charter commits all public-facing organisations to a zero suicide ambition, raising awareness of those at risk, how to access free training/resources and take action to prevent suicide.

Each suicide is estimated to cost £1.7m to the local economy – in Staffordshire and Stoke the average cost of suicide per year is £255m.

The main messages from my presentation were that:

  • Zero suicides is a challenging ambition but is the right ambition and is achievable
  • All public facing agencies can access free resources to support them in raising awareness and taking action through the Zero Suicide Alliance website
  • The Suicide Prevention Conference on the 30 November was significantly over subscribed. The Together We’re Better STP can take action to further raise the profile of this issue.

As part of this effort, our Communications Team have been supporting their colleagues in the STP to complete the full list of signatories to the Charter and publish a high quality Charter poster to demonstrate the system-wide commitment to this important initiative. As soon as this is available, I will let everyone know.


We had a really positive meeting last week with our regulators, NHS Improvement. This was part of our regular timetabled performance meetings, where we update NHSI on our continuing development plans and performance. It is really heartening to see how the approach we are taking and the results we are securing, both in frontline services and in the development of Combined as a Trust overall, are being recognised by the wider system and our regulators.


I am delighted to inform everyone that Dr Hardeep Uppal has been appointed as Clinical Director for the Specialist Directorate. Hardeep takes over from 1 April from Darren Perry, to whom we are enormously grateful for his contribution to Combined Healthcare over many years.

I am also pleased to announce that Stephanie Hutton has been appointed as Acting Head of Psychology. A substantive appointment will be made shortly, with interviews taking place in mid-March.


One important thing I’d like to flag up to is the impending publication of results from our annual staff survey which is embargoed until tomorrow.

As you will know from my previous blogs, our return rate from the staff survey was absolutely fantastic this year at 58% – a 6% increase on the previous year, which we are confident will give us one of the highest response rates of any NHS Trust in Staffordshire and right up there amongst the best response rates of mental health Trusts across the West Midlands region.

Of course, what is just as important as the number of responses is what respondents are saying to us. Our results are incredibly positive, which you will see tomorrow. A very big thank you to each and every one of you for the role you have played in creating such a positive culture – so very important for supporting our service users and carers in the most positive way.