Friday, 25 January 2019

Setting the course for a positive future

In the past, including my interview for this chief exec post, I have used the example of the Ernest Shackleton expedition to the South Pole on the ship, Endurance, as a way describing our collective challenge and how it must sometimes feel working in the NHS. You know, extremely challenging conditions and dubious recognition, but something driving people to be ambitious and to keep going with determination and resilience.

Now, there are still days when this must feel true for you, but recently in a chat with Chris Reynolds, our director of IM&T, he used the analogy of the Dunkirk rescue during the Second World War as a better way of describing our aspiration.

In other words, we don’t consist of a single ship, but a flotilla of boats and ships of all shapes and sizes, united in a joint purpose and a shared sense of direction. I like this analogy a lot as it acknowledges the differences across our organisation in terms of services, size and locations, and what we contribute we make, but recognises that, at heart, we all want the same thing for the people we serve and try to demonstrate a set of shared core values of kindness and compassion, fairness, ingenuity, courage and determination.

We all want to deliver the highest quality care to patients, and through the work we have been doing over the last year on our strategy, we are increasingly making our direction of travel and shared purpose much clearer. 

It feels as if we are on the right course and moving closer, even though we acknowledge we still have a way to go in terms of our journey. So, it's really encouraging the CQC report that will be published on Monday recognises this.

This report feels like it has a distinctly different tone to the last one. I always say that it is accurate to say the glass is both half full and half empty, but this definitely feels like a 'glass half full' assessment. Yes, it acknowledges things we still need to improve, but it very much recognises the progress being made and the hard work and commitment of our staff and services.

Without wanting to repeat the key messages in our email which went out a bit earlier, I'm so pleased the CQC recognises our improvements in both quality and culture. 

And let's not forget that this has been done in a challenging climate. We’re seeing more patients, with limited resources and a whole load of change going on, so it’s a real credit to you all that even through these most challenging times, you have still managed to make improvements.  

We have something you can't put a price on, and that's compassionate and committed staff. It's the most precious commodity we have, and reflected in the CQC report.

I saw that care and felt that commitment earlier this week when I visited Taylor and Saxon wards, Beckett Place and Tatton unit at Tameside Hospital.  I met some really motivated and enthusiastic managers who have a lot of ideas for improvement. What we need to do is find ways of making this easier for them.

It was also great to talk to some front line staff and patients. I sat in on a gambling awareness session being run by our Health and Wellbeing college and its clear this is making a big difference to people’s lives. 

What I appreciate most about these visits is the honesty. I don’t want a ‘royal’ visit where people try to present what they think I want to hear. I am really interested in hearing how things really are. As I have said before, unless we know what doesn’t work we can’t work on fixing it together.

I think the CQC report helps with this because as well as highlighting things that are working, it also helps us stay focused on the areas for improvement. It will also help support honest conversations with commissioners about priorities and resources, as we all want to develop good and outstanding services. 

I think the CQC rating is a fair one, and reflective of where we are on our journey, but our aspiration is to move to good and to use this as a platform to become outstanding and that's where our new strategy comes in, in helping to be clearer about how we do this.

Although the decision about our strategic direction has been tough, it comes from wanting to, and considering where we can, make the most difference. I strongly believe we can make a huge difference as a strong mental health and learning disabilities trust and there will be a lot of opportunities over the next few months for people to be engaged in what this means and to help shape our future. I'll talk more about this and our strategy development in my next blog.

But I leave you with the thought reflecting back to the Dunkirk analogy, that it’s the set of the sails, not the direction of the wind that determines the way we go. We are after all the masters of our own destiny. 

Best wishes
Claire Molloy

Friday, 11 January 2019

Winds are changing and stars are aligning: our Trust is set for a big year

So 2019 is the Chinese year of the pig!

Not exactly the most exotic or cuddly animal. But, forget Miss Piggy and think more Piglet because the Chinese new year pig represents honesty, sincerity, and bravery.

I believe you all have these powerful, positive characteristics in bucket loads, and they will be hugely beneficial throughout this year of transition and change.

I know that when the festive cheer of Christmas has faded, the prospect of a long January can leave even the most positive of us feeling flat. Cold, dreary weather, and too much Christmas food and drink can leave people feeling sluggish and overweight. Plus, I’m aware many people felt really tired at the end of 2018 and, on top of that, there are plenty of winter lurgies going around. I was struck down with norovirus over Christmas which was pretty horrible.

Its therefore more important than ever that we all look after ourselves and each other. Let’s call it a joint new year ‘wellbeing’ resolution, to sit alongside any others we all might have.

I know some of you are already doing RED January and Dry January for the month and hope you’re already feeling the benefits? Incorporating wholesome habits into our daily routine can also provide a pick-me-up, from taking proper breaks to connecting with people.

Like a lot of you, I will be trying my best to be healthier in 2019, and so I’ve agreed with Evelyn, our Chair, that I will be temporarily reducing my hours of work to four days a week in order to spend a bit more time with family. So, I won’t be in on Thursdays, when Henry our medical director will head up things as current deputy chief executive; supported by other  exec director colleagues. Work is hugely important to us all, but we all need to find ways of balancing that with life outside and things that bring us joy and energy and most importantly perspective.

According to Chinese astrology 2019 should also be a year full of joy, friendship and love, as well as a good year to make money and invest, as the pig attracts success in all spheres of life. Which sounds just the ticket! They do say that the only ‘dark side’ to the pig is its stubbornness. Personally, I think that a bit of stubbornness, when its firmly wrapped around ‘doing the right thing’ and sticking to your values, is not necessarily a bad trait.

I’m not really into astrology or horoscopes, but it’s spooky that Mary Poppins is back on the big screen after 25 years and interestingly both actresses Julie Andrews and Emily Blunt were born in the year of the pig. The film is predicted to be a huge box-office success because of its timely message of joy and hope. Its message is set against the backdrop of the film’s only certainty, that whatever happens, the wind will change.

So, here’s to joy and hope, a positive wind of change and your wellbeing in the year of the pig (and the occasional spoonful of sugar….).

Best wishes
Claire Molloy