Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Recap of 2015 and thoughts for the New Year

As 2015 draws to a close, I thought it would be a good opportunity for some reflection over the last year and a look ahead to what’s to come in 2016.

Nationally, 2015 brought some major developments for the NHS, with NHS England starting to implement changes outlined in the Five Year Forward View.  This saw new ‘vanguard’ models of care being set up across the country to test out new ways of delivering care.  Pennine Care is a partner within the Stockport Together vanguard programme and we are keeping a close eye on developments around the country to see what models are proving to improve quality and reduce costs.  It’s likely that more test sites will be set up in 2016 as the first wave of vanguards start to produce the goods.  

This year, Greater Manchester was the first ‘city-region’ to be given greater decision making and budgetary controls over health and social care through the devolution agreement.  This has been a major programme of work since February and I personally have invested a great deal of time working with the central devolution team and Chief Executive colleagues within the NHS and Local Authorities to develop plans to radically redesign health and social care services.  This has culminated in the publication of a Strategic Plan for health and social care across Greater Manchester. 

Devolution will continue to be a key focus throughout 2016 and will inevitably result in considerable change for providers of health and care services, such as Pennine Care.  I will continue to be involved in GM devolution with the aim of ensuring community and mental health care has as much prominence as the acute sector in addressing future challenges and solutions.  This is recognised as part of the strategic plan, but it is part of my job to keep it high on the agenda.

We have had some major successes this year which we should be proud of.  At times of considerable challenge and change it can be easy to overlook all the good work that happens each and every day.  Of course I can’t mention them all, but would like to say a genuine thank you to all of our staff and supporters for their continued hard work and contributions.   

Significant highlights include:

We promote the good work of our staff and services throughout the year, so please take some time to look over the range of good new stories posted on the Trust website.

That’s not to say things aren’t difficult out in services, I know that staff are working tirelessly to deliver high quality patient care and at the same time resources are being squeezed as we have to make financial savings year on year.  I can’t promise that things are going to be easier in 2016, we still have savings to make and demands to meet, but as a Trust we will endeavour to listen to and support staff through these challenging times.

Looking forward to 2016, there are going to be some key priority areas we need to focus on as a Trust, these include:

  • Preparing ourselves for a CQC inspection, likely to be late Spring or early summer.
  • Making sure our services are safe and sustainable, with a major new programme being launched in the year.  It includes developing a new 5-year strategy for the Trust.
  • Focusing on integration and partnership working within our towns.
  • Continuing to support patients to avoid hospital wherever possible and helping them to take more responsibility for their own health and care.
  • Being a key player within Greater Manchester Devolution.
  • Continuing to implement the Paris clinical information system (Emis for Trafford).  
  • Improving the quality of data and reporting for all services.
  • Responding to tenders for existing and new services.
  • Continuing to campaign for parity of esteem and improved investment in mental health services.

I will continue to provide you with updates on these priority areas at key times throughout the year, using my blog, twitter account and staff communications channels.  But if you have any feedback for me please email: 

I’d like to thank you again for your support throughout 2015 and wish you well for the festive season and New Year.


Monday, 19 October 2015

Progress, opportunities and challenges ahead

We recently held the Trust's Annual General Meeting and Principles of Care Awards.  It was great to see more than 200 people there, staff in the main but Governors, members, commissioners and supporters too. 

The AGM is an opportunity to look back at the progress we have made over the last 12 months, whilst also looking forward to the year ahead and the opportunities and challenges that presents.   These things can be a bit dry at times, but we try to keep the presentations informative and concise, whilst delivering some important messages that I want to ensure all staff hear.  

On reflection

As I approach two years being in post, and with last year 2014/15 my first full year in post, I thought I would share a brief reflection on my time as Pennine Care's Chief Executive. At a time when many reports in the media say how difficult and unattractive Chief Executive roles are, for me it remains a privilege and I continue to carry out the role with great pride. I am always mindful that the number one aim of my job is to support staff and help them provide the best care possible. It is probably the most challenging time the NHS has ever faced, it is definitely the most challenging time in my 31 years in the NHS.

And despite the challenges we face, I am humbled on a regular basis by the continued hard work, commitment and care provided by all of the staff I meet as I go about my work. It reminds me each time of the importance of doing the best I can to support dedicated staff, who just want to provide the best patient care possible. I thanked everyone at the AGM and I just want to repeat that thanks here, to all the staff of Pennine Care and those who work closely with the Trust. 

Community care

Our community and mental health services provided care to patients across our six boroughs nearly 2.5 million times last year.  This is a phenomenal figure and shows just how hard our staff are working day in and day out to meet patient needs, during times of increasing demands and pressures.  So thank you to each and every one of you. 

One of the main aims of most of our services is to keep patients from having to go in to hospital, by providing high quality care at home or within the community.  We also have services that allow people to return home more quickly when they have been in hospital.  Not only is this better for the patient, it also delivers cost savings, which is so important in these times of financial challenge we find ourselves in.   

We have recently undertaken an economic evaluation of some of our key services in this area - Butler Green in Oldham, Saffron Ward in Stockport and the Psychiatry Liaison (RAID) service – and together they have achieved 23,164 deflections from hospital and saved the economy £4 million in acute costs in one year alone.   Imagine what could be achieved if we could expand this across all of our towns and even Greater Manchester, which is what we aim to do as part of the Greater Manchester Devolution programme. 

We have also been working closely with commissioners in our towns to implement more integrated approaches to community-based care, involving partnerships with a range of providers and moving towards services working together in neighbourhoods.  This will continue to be a key theme moving forward in order to meet commissioner expectations and deliver our cost and quality improvement strategies.

Staff engagement

Staff engagement has continued to be a major focus over the last year, and of course we made the HSJ and Nursing Times Best Places to Work list.  This is based on the results of the NHS Staff Survey, taking staff feedback to directly measure performance in relation to a number of different areas.  This year’s survey is now out, so please take the time to respond.


Dr Henry Ticehurst, our Trust Medical Director, gave us an overview of the progress that has been made with regards to quality and clinical leadership.  Ensuring the clinical voice is well represented within Pennine Care is essential and the Nursing and Healthcare Professionals Council and associated groups is a key enabler of this and continues to be a growing force within the Trust.  The Care Quality Commission (CQC) placed Pennine Care in the ‘lowest rate of concern’ as part of its new Intelligent Monitoring programme.  Pennine Care was the only mental health provider in Greater Manchester to achieve this rating, which is a testament to our high standards of care and patient safety.


Martin Roe, Exec Director of Finance, also gave a sobering overview of the annual accounts which basically showed that although we have been able to deliver our required financial savings year on year, we realistically only have one more year where financial balance can be achieved.  Martin described 2016/17 as being ‘a watershed year’ both for the Trust and the NHS as a whole, as providers continue to struggle to meet the required efficiency targets set by the Government.  Pennine Care’s overall target is £47.5 million over five years.  Our target for this current year is £7.6 million, which we are forecasting to achieve but this then jumps up to £10 million for the years thereafter, which is much more challenging. 

Principles of Care Awards

To end on a lighter note, I would just like to acknowledge the fantastic achievements of the winners from the Principles of Care Awards.  A video of the winners from each division was shown on the night, which were truly inspirational and remind you what it’s all about – caring people delivering the best care possible to people who need it.  All of the videos are now on the Trust’s YouTube channel, so please take some time to watch them and I hope you find them as moving as I did.  Particularly congratulations to the highly commended Bury learning disabilities dementia team, and the Bury children’s diabetes nurses who were named overall winners. 

The presentation slides from the evening are on the Trust website if you want to review them, or watch this short video clip from the event: 

Thank you

Twitter: @MichaelMcCourt1

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Being a great place to work in challenging times

A few weeks ago the Health Service Journal and Nursing Times unveiled their list of the Best Places to Work in Healthcare – and I’m proud to say that Pennine Care made the list.  

The list is hailed as a celebration of NHS organisations that have worked hard to promote great staff engagement and create an environment where people can enjoy their work.  Using data compiled from the national NHS staff survey, an independent research company called Best Companies Group identified the top 100 trusts and 20 clinical commissioning groups from across the UK.

The list looks at results in seven key areas that affect an employee’s experience of the workplace including leadership and planning, culture and communication, job satisfaction, work environment, relationship with supervisor, training, development and resources and employee engagement and satisfaction.

Making the list is a fantastic achievement for the Trust and I’d like to personally thank all of our staff for working together to make this a great place to work, even when faced with considerable challenges and pressures.

But we’ve still got a long way to go before we can truly say we are performing well in all of these areas and that all 6,000 staff have a positive experience of working here.   Perhaps this is a big aspiration considering the difficulties we face as the NHS, but it’s something that we must keep striving for.  

The national NHS Staff Survey provides us with an annual indicator of staff satisfaction levels at Pennine Care – some key headlines from last year’s survey are: 

  • 89% of staff agree that their role makes a difference to patients
  • 85% said they had received an appraisal within the last 12 months, but only 38% said this was well structured 
  • 90% of staff believe the Trust provides equal opportunities for career progression or promotion
  • 63% said they would be happy with the standard of care provided by the trust if a friend of family needed treatment
  • 55% of staff said they would recommend Pennine Care as a place to work
  • Our overall engagement score out of a maximum of 5 is 3.72
The things we scored particularly well on are staff working extra hours, staff experiencing physical violence or harm, staff witnessing incidents and staff experiencing bullying or harassment.   The areas we need to work on are staff reporting incidents, the frequency and quality of appraisals and staff feeling pressured to return to work after illness.

The full results of last year’s NHS Staff Survey can be found online.

Although we are doing ok on the whole, there is a great deal more we can do to make Pennine Care a great place to work for everyone. I fully recognise that staff are working tremendously hard, faced with increasing demands, financial pressures and constant change.  All of which can impact your experience as an employee. 

Something worth noting is that the national NHS Staff Survey only recognises categories for acute trusts, acute specialist trusts, community trusts, mental health trusts and clinical commissioning groups.  They do not currently have a category for integrated trusts such as Pennine Care, so we have to fall in to one of the categories and historically we are listed under mental health.  I know this isn’t ideal and we are pushing for the categories to be reviewed so they reflect the more modern arrangements of the NHS but it is not something that is currently within our control.  

We launched our first challenge on the Spark system to ask for your ideas for how we can improve the experience of our staff, which generated 35 initial ideas that are going to be explored and taken forward.  But we need to keep listening to what’s important to our staff and what will really make a difference to your experience of working at Pennine Care, no matter how big or small. 

We only had a response rate of 32% in the last NHS Staff Survey so to make the results more meaningful and representative we need everyone to be taking part. The next survey is due out in September, so please do take some time to complete it.  

It would be brilliant to stay in the Best Places to Work list, who knows we could even win it in the future. 


Tuesday, 26 May 2015

National direction set

The NHS Confederation last week published a letter to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, to urge the Government to provide political will and financial backing to secure the future of hard pressed NHS services.  This was co-signed by 50 leaders in healthcare, including me.

The publication of the letter coincided with a major speech from Mr Cameron (link) and Chief Executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens (link).   

The overarching themes from these speeches was further commitment to implement the Five Year Forward View, making a 7-day NHS a reality, greater focus on healthy lifestyles and prevention and treating mental health with equal importance as physical health.  The Government has pledged to provide the NHS with an additional £8 billion in funding by 2020, but this is in the context of the NHS still needing to find £22 billion in efficiency savings. 

The level of change and challenge facing the NHS will continue to be significant, but we now have a clear sense of direction and purpose at a national level, guided by the Five Year Forward View.  On a more regional level, Greater Manchester is progressing plans for the devolution of health and social care from central government to the city region.  

At a Trust level, Pennine Care continues to be a high performer in terms of both quality and finance.  However, we still need to achieve £47.5 million in efficiency savings over the next five years to contribute to the overall NHS target of £22 billion.  This will be tough at times but we must ensure that the care and safety of our patients and the wellbeing of our staff are at the forefront of any changes we make.  We are now engaging with our staff widely on developing plans for the future and I would encourage all of you to get involved. 

I would encourage you to read these when you can as it will help to give you a sense of direction for the NHS over the next five years.  We will of course provide regular updates about how these changes will impact our frontline staff as it becomes clear. 

Thank you

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Video blog Q&A - April 2015

My first video blog (or vlog as they are also known I am told) is now ready for viewing!  

Thank you to the members of staff who sent in questions, I have tried to summarise and answer them in this video, but there were quite a few so there will be another video blog coming soon too.  

It's the first time I have done a video blog and was a bit hesitant about being on camera, but hopefully it helps to answer some of your queries. 

In this Q&A I talk about what the Five Year Forward View means for us at Pennine Care, how we are supporting hospital pressures, why partnership working is so important, what whole person care means to me, integration of community and mental health services and what's the one thing I would like us to focus on as a Trust. 

It's only seven minutes, so not too long.  I would really like to hear your feedback and further questions. This is all part of building our communication and engagement with staff and partners so we can plan together for the future.

Thank you,

Thursday, 5 March 2015

In the vanguard of new ways of delivering care

I thought I would do a quick blog to tell you about the latest developments with the NHS England Five Year Forward View or 5YFV as it’s now affectionately known. 

You may have read that NHS England are now looking to develop vanguard sites as part of a 'new models of care programme'.  This is being led by Samantha Jones at NHS England, with the intention of providing a ‘proving ground’ in a number of areas, accelerating development of integrated care.   

The vanguard sites then become templates from which the rest of England learns. This spread and share approach is intended to address the challenges we face in health and social care at pace and scale. Sounds straightforward enough but England faces a challenging five years ahead.

There is a detailed document online about how the 5YFV will be put into action, but look at page 9, 3.3 if you don’t have time to read the whole document, but it is worth a full read

I read through the criteria for applying to be a vanguard site, you had to apply against one of four categories - multispecialty community providers (MCPs); integrated primary and acute care systems (PACS); additional approaches to creating viable smaller hospitals and models of enhanced health in care homes.

I couldn’t see how we fit into any category. I knew we would be part of submissions in at least three of the towns we serve, as part of the partnerships in those towns. However, because I feel we are to an extent uniquely placed as an organisation and because we are pushing so much to transform and advance care, I put one in anyway on behalf of the Trust. To our surprise we were short listed to attend workshops for a final selection process.

I think the staff in Pennine Care should see this as an achievement in itself, 269 areas applied and this was short listed down to just 63. So yesterday Katy Calvin-Thomas, Henry Ticehurst, Richard Spearing and I went down to London to present to the third and final day of the workshops. 

Here is our original submission - please do read this in particular as I think it captures where we are up to as an organisation. It also shows our latest thinking and just how exciting the challenge is we face. Yes exciting. I think we are truly in the vanguard of new ways of providing care. That’s why I put the application in and it was great to be shortlisted.

I’d be surprised if we were selected to go right through to be a vanguard site, as our submission didn’t easily fit. Also, I didn’t think our ‘pitch’ (a seven minute presentation) went very well. I became a bit tongue-tied and nervous trying to squeeze a broad ambitious agenda into a few sound bites. Katy, Henry and Richard rescued it well and I recovered for the question and answer bit. 

I am sharing my experience, which was personally a bit embarrassing, because I think it goes with working outside of our comfort zone. In Pennine Care, many of our staff and leaders are working outside of their comfort zone, working hard under pressure and really pushing the delivery of new and different services. I am grateful for all the work and success to date, its making a real difference to improving care and helping people live as independently and empowered as possible.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained I suppose. And whilst we might not become a first wave vanguard site, we still have an important role to play informing the agenda for new models of care and also the new Devolution Manchester work developing care out of hospital for the city region.

As we always say though, the single most important agenda is getting it right in Pennine Care, that's with partners and working well with staff and patients to deliver new integrated models of care. After yesterday, listening to some really excellent presentations, I know we are definitely on the right tracks and in some areas ahead of the game. Our staff can rightly feel proud of what they are achieving in the pursuit of improving the health outcomes of the communities we serve.

I do think that NHS England and the new models of care programme should be congratulated for the approach taken to securing vanguard sites. There was some criticism of the process, around how the voting worked, whether it was a fair approach but it was a lot fairer than years gone by, when decisions were made behind closed doors and within networks that weren’t accessible. 

I spoke with Samantha Jones afterwards and she was open and interested in the work we are doing in Pennine Care. NHS England Chief Executive, Simon Stevens, sat and chatted through our challenge with Richard Spearing. Jackie Lynton Head of Transformation at NHS Improving Quality wants to support our work on diversity and Rob Webster, Chief Executive of the NHS Confederation, has shown great support to the Trust. We are in a more open, transparent and involving era, the playing field is ever more level and I think we should applaud the positives in that.

Coming up next time, a video blog (or vlog), where I expand more on the challenges we face going forward. 

I miss my comfort zone!