Wednesday, 31 October 2018

Guest blog and announcement on our future (position paper included)

Today our Board had a challenging discussion about our future strategy; one in which we reflected on our previous aspirations and the changing world in which we find ourselves.   

When we took on community services, we had a vision we could make a real difference to people’s lives. By aligning community and mental health services within the same organisation, we felt local people could truly benefit from a 'whole person' service approach; bringing physical and mental health together.

We wanted to showcase the combined impact that these two complementary 'Cinderella' services could make - to support the hospitals buckling under the strain and, mostly importantly, help change lives. We felt that we could provide a local voice and also a safe haven and nurturing environment for our community services.

We have achieved some great things, particularly around children's and older people services, the two ends of life's full spectrum.  Our physical health services benefited from a psychological perspective and vice versa.

But, for a whole host of reasons, we have not been able to fully realise the vision we had for integrated, whole person care.

Now, with the rise of local care organisations (LCOs), we are seeing strong locality ownership for improvement, with a desire for local providers to be very visible and active within borough-based partnerships. 

While people have worked very hard to do this for both mental health and community services, we have struggled to represent all elements of our portfolio with the same strong voice in each LCO.

And that has brought us to today. With a heavy heart, but a huge dose of realism, the recommendations in the position paper on our future strategy were approved by our board this afternoon.  Click here to read our position paper.

As you know, it proposes that we look at community services developing as part of local care organisations and concentrate our efforts on mental health and learning disability services in their widest sense. Allowing both to extend, enhance and fulfil their potential for the benefit of local people in this changing new world.

It was good to see around 30 people in attendance at the board meeting, nearly all of those staff. We opened up the meeting for public questions on our strategy position paper, which included queries about specific services, next steps and possible future providers.

We understand and respect the different emotions that people are feeling, which include disappointment and worries about the future. And we want to always work and behave with complete integrity and compassion. The questions provided an opportunity for us to talk about close partnerships, strong relationships with commissioners and being a strong local alliance member, as the future is about collaboration.  

This is all about people and we talked about our responsibilities as a board to never do anything detrimental to patient care.

While the Board has approved the direction of travel in principle, we need to gather lots of views before our final strategy goes to our board in December.

It's been a journey to get us to this first stage. I hope that the time many services have been with us has been well spent, but accept that this time may be coming to an end.

We should always do the right things for the right reasons, even if it's hard. And that includes acknowledging we might not be the best organisation to continue providing a service.

So, let's keep talking. We want to hear your views and will be putting plans in place to do this. Let's all help shape the future.

Thank you.


Dr Henry Ticehurst
Medical Director

Friday, 19 October 2018

Guest Blog

It’s 12 months since I joined Pennine Care as Chair, so I thought it was a good time to write a blog.

So much has happened over the last year, with a lot of work on developing our new strategy, culture and the refreshed vision and values to support this. I’ve also had the opportunity to get out and about and visit many different teams, which is without question the best part of my job. I never cease to be impressed, humbled and full of admiration for what you do, day in and day out.

There’s so much more I want to learn about the services you deliver, how your teams work, and the fantastic people that work here.  But I also think it might be helpful to learn some more about me.

So, I’m taking this opportunity to reveal something about myself.

Something personal which has had a huge impact on my life. Something which will hopefully help those who already know me or will meet me soon – and also those who welcome an open and honest message about understanding and respecting everyone as individuals, whatever our challenges.

It’s also important we all feel safe, comfortable and supported if we open up about personal information. Especially when we work for an organisation such as ours.

You see, I’ve been managing a long term health condition whilst holding down a high profile role

Two years ago I had heart failure.

I hate the word 'failure' to describe my living, beating heart, but when I asked another doctor how he'd describe what happened he called it 'heart inadequacy’ which is worse!

Its sometimes easy to forget the psychological impact of a ‘label’, until its ours to wear.

I was visiting Ghana when it happened. I’ve got diabetes and high blood pressure runs in my family, but I started to take a lot of extra medication on this holiday as I was feeling really rotten.

A few days after I returned home, I woke  one morning and was struggling to breathe. It was scary enough for me to visit my GP, and before I knew it I was in an ambulance rushing to the MRI. I was in hospital for 10 days, and the care was amazing. We all know how wonderful the NHS is and how lucky we are to have it.

I now have to take 14 tablets every day, which I find both stressful and tedious. I line them up in pairs, according to their shape – anything to make it feel less of a daily trial.

Only four out of the 14 have side effects, but they are gruelling side-effects and take their toll. That means, especially with sometimes very long days of meetings, that I can struggle.

My mind is fine, it’s just my body that lets me down, but the drugs do mean that I struggle. And it does get me down.

I tell you this in the spirit of openness and caring about the impact it can have on our family, friends and colleagues and so you have more of an understanding about why sometimes I may appear fazed.

I have four children who worry, my son just wants the doctors to ‘fix me’ my eldest daughter practically moved in when I came out of hospital, my middle and youngest daughters worried for some time whenever I went to the GP in case I ended up in A&E again and my adorable grandchildren (6 & 7) worry about me dying.

We also laugh about it though, as there are plenty of funny moments. My relationship with lifts and stairs, and my reaction to being advised to get a ‘blue badge’ are just a couple they tease me about.

Laughing is a good medicine, but one of the best things is that when needed I can indulge in my ‘guilty pleasure’ TV court shows - Judge Judy, People’s Court, Paternity Court and judge Rinder – without feeling I should be ‘up and about’ busying myself all the time.

So, I’ve opened up my ‘weak’ heart to you all. It’s still bursting with pride to be part of our fantastic organisation.   I just want you to know that my passion for and commitment to the Trust is strong and I will work to ensure that I carry out my role effectively.

Thank you for reading.

Evelyn Asante-Mensah MBE

Friday, 5 October 2018

The best of times, the worst of times

I can’t believe it’s my one year anniversary!

I remember giving a presentation at last year’s annual general meeting (AGM), when I was just two weeks in post as your new chief executive. When I stood up on Wednesday to talk at this year’s AGM I thought; the days can sometimes be long,  but the years are certainly short!

It was good to update a packed house at the AGM on our key developments over the last 12 months and the work we have been doing on developing greater clarity about the future direction of our organisation; strengthening clinical and professional leadership; our partnership working; and some highlights of the many service developments you have been working on over the last year.  It was also an opportunity for openness and honesty about the challenges ahead, within the current climate of increased demand for services and major financial constraints.

The future of Trafford services

I think it is the novel ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ that starts with the line ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times’ and this certainly summed up Wednesday, if not life in general at the moment. 

It started in a very tough way, as that morning our board made the very difficult decision to serve notice on our Trafford community services contract. We genuinely believe that this is doing what is best for the people of Trafford, although we completely recognise how hard this will feel for our staff working in that locality.  

While this decision evoked some strong emotions for us, our board is trying to make strategic decisions about where best we can focus as a trust to have the biggest impact and make the greatest difference to patients. We do care, and sometimes the hard decisions have to be made because we care and because we are not prepared to compromise on quality.  

So, while I know there will be a lot of sadness that our journey in Trafford is coming to an end, I think that this decision opens up the opportunity for a more robust debate about the resourcing of community services. 

We want  our community services to have a strong local champion who is positioned to secure the vital resources needed for innovation and improvement. They deserve that, and we believe that letting go might better help them achieve their potential. We are hopeful that this decision will prove a catalyst for a stronger focus on the financial issues within the health economy. 

As I have noted previously, in all the discussions I have been in, the hugely significant and valuable role that community services provide is seen by everyone, and people appreciate that these services depend on the skilled and committed people who deliver them. 

It’s important to remember that, alongside a lot of work that now needs to take place to ensure a smooth and successful transfer, it’s very much business as usual. We have been so grateful for the strong leadership in our Trafford teams and the mature way staff have engaged in this difficult process. I know that they will be continuing to do everything they can to provide good services during the transition and in the future.

In terms of our overall Trust strategy, just a reminder that we are aiming to finalise it by December, and will engage with you in October and November about what this might mean. As I’ve said many times before, I am totally committed to being as upfront with you, as early as possible, about things.

Lifting spirits with our AGM and Cares Awards

While the decision on Trafford was the worst part of Wednesday, the best part was undoubtedly the AGM and the Cares Awards. The theme over this last year has been excellence in challenging times. 

We’re still striving for that of course, but it’s clear that maintaining spirit and resilience is also emerging as an important theme. Your health and wellbeing is vitally important and we need to support you to cope with the day-to-day pressures of working in a fast moving and demanding environment.

I opened up the Cares Awards talking about spirit and resilience. Our motivational speaker Dr Ed Coats, an adventurer and hospital doctor, then made us laugh, gasp and listen in awe as he spoke about resilience during his Antarctica expedition to the South pole – billed as the toughest endurance race on the planet - with James Cracknell and Ben Fogle.

He was inspirational, but then it was a truly inspirational evening all round. The Manchester Survivors' Choir, made up of children and adults directly affected by the Manchester Arena attack, brought a tear to the eye with their rendition of ‘Rise Up’. And the award videos, showcasing the work of our truly fantastic finalists, made our hearts burst with pride. 

Congratulations to all the divisional winners – it was so uplifting to hear your stories and the impact you are having for people you work with. This year I was part of the judging panel choosing the overall winner; we had such a tough time as the quality of the shortlisted services was outstanding. 

But huge congratulations to the Stockport palliative care dementia liaison service team, our overall winners – a tremendous achievement as there were so many gold star finalists.  

It was such a wonderful way to end the day, and as I drove home that night I felt a mixture of pride, optimism and hope. Pride about our staff, optimism that the difficult decisions being made are the right ones for patients and the teams that care for them, and hope about the future. 

I know these are anxious times, but if the spirit and resilience shown over the last year and at our awards is anything to go by, we have incredible people that can help us get through anything.  

Claire Molloy
Chief executive