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.