Chief Executive’s Blog

Please use the links below to view the Chief Executive’s blog or use the menu to the left hand side.


Chief Executive’s Blog – October 2016 

I understand that the much hyped Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) for the Black Country (and west Birmingham) will shortly be posted and published.  It will contain no surprises.  Extant plans for change will be at its heart, and it is explicit about what we are trying to do.  Spend more on patient care from a decreasing pot.  Prevent hospital admission by better upstream self-care, primary care and support for the third sector.  These are difficult aims to disagree with.  The challenge is seeing real change happen.  As we have experienced with the better care fund over the last two years it is possible to do the right, or the noble, thing, and see very limited, or indeed no results.  There are subtle nuances that make change succeed.  We have seen that with outpatient care, where many efforts to “triage” referrals from general practice by GPs saw limited change.  But the same thing undertaken by consultant physicians has shown real promise. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – September 2016

We are almost into autumn. In fact on October 3rd we launch our Winter Wellness package for staff and partners.This year’s flu vaccination drive will be launched there, combined with our SWBH benefits portal which draws together all the upsides and fringe benefits of joining our team and family.  One of the big successes of the last six months has been the impact of our drive to slash sickness absence.  I very much hope that the next six months sees similar impact from the work we are doing on recruitment, especially among band five nurses and midwives.  We get off to a great start in October, with fifty new joiners, and by the time we enter the New Year we are confident we will be below a hundred vacancies.  Both situations and interventions go to the heart of the balance between great local management and brilliant corporate support.  That is a balance we are changing to get results.  Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – August 2016

As we fly past 800 days to the new Midland Met, I am back blogging about the work of the Trust after a short break to take my kids away in July.

We had great weather, but not as hot as the west midlands – with the unfortunate impact on our technology, causing a system outage, our third since the start of the year.  The good news is that by Christmas 2016 all our efforts, time and money to sort out a decade of under investment in IT will come to a conclusion.  By then we will be stable, and ready for the push to Christmas 2017 and our new Electronic Patient Record.  Cerner are our preferred provider, and pending NHS Improvement approval in a fortnight’s time we are ready to go.  As we get used to implementing new technology I sense excitement building.  In the last few weeks we have deployed new automated discharge letter technology for our wards, and are part way through deploying speech recognition into all our clinics.  Gradually technology is becoming the norm not just in how our teams interact, but in how work with patients.  With some minor adaptation to our clinic booking kiosks in October we will start encouraging patients to opt in email as a primary communication system, and from 2018 a patient portal will provide dial up access to you from home to key parts of what is your record. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – June 2016

Just finished reading the proof of our Annual Report, due for launch at the annual general meeting – on June 22nd.  The report will be on our website a few days beforehand, and is close in content to the version from our public board papers last week (on our website).  The auditors have commended both our quality and our financial accounts teams, hitting the self-imposed June timetable, the new national guidance, and our own high standards!  But come along the night before the Brexit decision, and be our judge. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – May 2016

Our Annual General Meeting is in June, helpfully diaried the night before the EU referendum.  The meeting will hear from Karim Raza, our outstanding rheumatologist and R&D director, and from a diabetes doctor, Bob Ryder, who is leading a ground breaking project to tackle long term lifestyle changes for local people with diabetes – research which looks hugely promising (click here to read the full story).  As a Trust we are trying to put research at the heart of our Trust.  We have a leading researcher on our Board, local GP Paramjit Gill, and for my sins I chair the region’s research partnership board.  Later this spring an academic from Warwick joins the Trust for a year, as part of our involvement with the West Midlands CLARCH.  2015/16 saw our best ever year for research work. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – April 2016

Let’s start on a high note with some good news for spring.  Our major investment in up to date imaging equipment, able to work faster and give better quality images, has made it through the NHS approval process and is now ready to go.  A new CT scanner goes into A&E at City very soon, to be followed over the coming two years by more kit on our sites as we get ready for Midland Met.  Typically that hospital will be seeing emergency and complex planned care, and so we need to make sure in the Birmingham Treatment Centre and at Sandwell we have good quality equipment to support planned local care.  For many patients not knowing what is wrong is by far the most worrying part of being unwell, and so great equipment, we can help teams to shorten waiting times.  Nationally the standard is six weeks to have a scan.  We are aiming for four weeks, because for much care a report is needed to explain the scan before we can form a care plan.  So we want to deliver a six week routine wait from start to finish. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – March 2016

As we move into an early Easter, and the public sector year reaches an end in the next week, there is time and a chance to reflect on our year at the Trust.  What has been achieved and what lies ahead.  There remains lots of improve and there is no need to hide that.  We have had four never events, with one last month, after three last spring, and we all want to stop those errors.  Health-watch have produced an interesting report highlighting some issues in our wards last autumn, and even today we continue to struggle with having to open extra emergency beds.  And although our efforts to tackle staff sickness rates are bearing some fruit, we are well over 100 absent staff away each day from where we need to be. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – February 2016

I was delighted this month to see the board approve the final parts of the strategic vision for the future.  Our 2020 vision has been much discussed on these pages before, but lays a clear, radical commitment to reshape what we do around patients and carers, focused on the outcomes that matter to them.  We have five pillars which support that vision, which we have developed over the last two years. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – January 2016

The start of a new year brings with it resolutions, commitments and promises to ourselves and our loved ones.  Although as I am writing this over a week into 2016, for many people it also involves some guilt and doubt too, at slips on those intentions!  My message to colleagues inside the Trust so far this new year has been, I think, plain and simple.  The same message in 2016 as in 2015.  The same ambitions, projects and programmes.  The same dedication.  The same honesty when we fall short.  Remember in November 2015 we published our 2020 Vision – a five year forward view for what would change and what would stay the same in our Trust, your local NHS.  Whatever the announcements and the policies we see in the months ahead, we need to shape them to fit with the plan we have built after over a year’s consultation with patients, partners and clinical staff across our Trust. Read more here.

Chief  Executive’s Blog – December 2015

Last week’s contract signature marked an early Christmas present, as the festive season is in full swing and I look forward to new year’s resolutions and our Trust in 2016.  On 16th December, our Chairman, Richard Samuda, hosted our annual festive gathering for partners, staff award winners and senior clinicians.  I was struck by the diversity of people with whom we work – from small third sector bodies with almost no permanent employees,through travel agencies supporting communities with historic local links, to large universities. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – November 2015

On Monday next, 23rd, our internal inspection teams get to work.  We have asked staff from different tiers of the Trust, patient reps from our own structure and Healthwatch, as well as individuals from allied organisations like the CCG and TDA, to join us in inspecting our work.  The background is the Improvement Plan that we published in March 2015, after the CQC visit we had in autumn 2014. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – October 2015

I could easily fill my monthly blog with tales of the best of our best at #SWBHAwards15.   I won’t but let’s start there!  The gala at Villa Park was sponsored by our partners, and supported by primary care partners, as befits our mission statement.  But it was graced by not just our 20 award winners, but those shortlisted in all our categories, their families, and work colleagues. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – September 2015

With August fading to memory, winter plans due in, and flu jab season just days away, I am reflecting on what we are trying to achieve at the Trust in September, October and November.  These are months in which we promised our CQC improvement plan would begin to grip, months in which we get a sense of whether our changes to care flows will see us safely through winter, and months in which how we book theatre and outpatient care changes completely. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – July 2015

Black Country Day looms large in our Trust once again. This time last year, the Midland Metropolitan Hospital approval was granted in a ceremony at Rowley Regis. This year, with flags fluttering across the region, I was proud to be helping to launch our Black Country Alliance. This partnership is an NHS first, and it brings together three large community and hospital providers: Ourselves, Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – June 2015

In June we held our annual general meeting, where around 50 local residents and partners held us to account. That same week over 120 colleagues, mostly clinicians, attended our annual leadership conference (where we try and make our own weather and sort out the future). My monthly blog is about keeping you in touch with what we are up to, but also trying to join up the dots of what we say and do, and sometimes connect that to national announcements or issues. This month I want to focus on our future, but before I do I need to be very explicit about the present. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – May 2015

Now the general election is done, we have forwarded our latest Midland Met business case to Whitehall. It is an exciting time as ourselves and Carillion get on with the planning consent exhibitions. Trust clinicians have worked incredibly hard in the last nine months to design a human but efficient hospital. I hope that that effort meets with public approval and support, and that important design touches about how the building sits in our community and the surrounding landscape find favour and support – and are improved further by feedback. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – April 2015

A lot has happened in our organisation over the last month; a month on from the CQC inspection being made public, and as the country debates our NHS in the run up to the general election.  Most excitingly, over 1000 of our staff took part in the first of our monthly Quality Improvement Half Days.  This a terrific start to something we have been planning for over a year. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – March 2015

A hectic month, trying to deliver what we promised this year and get ready to deliver our (hopefully your) ambitions next year.  Many of our staff tell me either that they are not sure of the plan, or that it changes a lot.  I accept the communication challenge that implies, but the truth is that our plans are deeply consistent.  We have some long term and medium term fixed points, and we are pretty clear what we need to do now to be ready. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – February 2015

February has been a big month for public involvement and engagement at the Trust, or it has been in my opinion.  We have kicked off the public meetings about changes in cardiac interventional care and acute emergency surgery that I wrote about here last month.  Meanwhile, a CCG led process on the long term model for urgent care is beginning. That is welcome. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – January 2015

Coming towards the end of January, I have had chance to reflect a little on 2014 and on what we are trying to achieve in 2015.    As I write this, we are celebrating one whole year at the Trust without a Never Event.  You may know that Never Events are a list of 25+ instances of error that should not happen in healthcare.  Last year, data on these instances was published nationally for the first time.  That showed many examples. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – December 2014

Last week, I recorded a Christmas message for hospital radio.  There are only so many ways to say thank you to colleagues working this festive season, and their families who miss them.  But thank you nonetheless – working in the NHS is a privilege, but also places great demands on individuals and it is right that that is acknowledged. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – November 2014

I do not usually quote the Nursing Times in aid, but I am absolutely thrilled that our iCares team, which provides specialist community care across Sandwell, has scooped their top national award for Integrated Care. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – October 2014

The month is only a few days old, and it already feels quite a tiring start to winter.  The run up to the general election and political narrative about the NHS means an array of guidance, questions, instruction and one off funds being sent in the direction of Board teams.  Our strategy, vision, plan and values are strong enough to just carry on with what we know we need to do, and fit round the suggestions. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – September 2014

Quite often I find myself talking about what we do at the Trust and illustrating my stories with a picture of someone juggling.  Whether someone is working clinically or in a leadership role, trying to do several things at the same time can be both occasionally difficult and slightly exhausting.  The dropped ball is often more visible than the many kept successfully in the air. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – August 2014

You may have come across a campaign called Big Up the NHS. My own interest in it reflects an abiding belief that we do not do quite enough to celebrate and publicise the very many successes behind our care.  This month I had the privilege to launch our 2014 Staff Awards shortlist. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – July 2014

The news from yesterday about the Midland Metropolitan Hospital is as good an excuse as I need to get my blogging fingers back in action after a few months break.  In truth, the first few months of the public sector financial year have been tough ones at the Trust, and so this decisive announcement is a huge boost for colleagues, and I hope for local residents.  I want to explain what I think it means for care locally. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – March 2014 

The end of the financial year is nigh.  As life in the NHS is obsessively annualised, it seems appropriate to reflect on what has happened at the Trust over the last twelve months.  In doing so, I would reflect that the NHS does not typically congratulate itself or its teams especially well.  This is something we have been talking about inside Sandwell and West Birmingham in recent weeks, because we need to find the best ways to thank colleagues for the extraordinary work that is done day after day.  Nationally, social media is abuzz with a campaign called Big UpThe NHS, which encourages any of us to talk more openly about what works well about our health service and what we value about its work.  Inside the Trust we will shortly begin to post on our intranet system (visible to all 7500 people) the compliments that we receive from patients and their relatives; your words being better than mine at expressing gratitude. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – February 2014 

The Care Quality Commission is developing their system to provide people with clear advice on the safety of the services Trusts like ours provide.  Their model combines publishing our data having compared it to others (intelligent monitoring is the watchword for this) with inspection, both unannounced and planned.  For the inspection regime the model is framed around 5 simple questions.  Four of those are probably to be expected – is a service safe, effective, caring and responsive?  The fifth, is it well led may cause more surprise. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – January 2014 

2014 has begun and tomorrow the Chinese New Year is also marked locally.  I am really pleased by the enthusiasm, compassion and resilience our services showed over the festive, new year, and mid-winter period.  Our plan never assumed every hour of every day or night would be pressure free.  But we have mobilised our organisation over the last nine months to have a better winter than in 2012.  And the data, but also the feedback and the stories, suggest that our teams have succeeded.  What has made a difference? Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – December 2013

We want to learn in our organisation.  Specifically we want to learn about how to learn.  That may seem peculiar because we are a high ranking educational provider.  We have just had our three year undergraduate medical review and it is hard to imagine a more glowing report.  We have good partnerships with two nursing schools.  And, are developing further academic relationships across the city. Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – November 2013

It is tough to escape an emphasis on winter in the NHS right now.  Rightly so after last year.  All our bay doors are on at Sandwell so we should be better able to limit infection.  We are over 3000 staff flu-vaccinated and we are keeping at it!  Waits to be transferred from an ambulance into A&E are down – City is the top performer in Birmingham much of the time.  Though we really have decisively slashed very long waits, we still are not always able to beat four hours for nineteen out of twenty patients.  Read more here.

Chief Executive’s Blog – September 2013

We had to cancel our cricket match against local GPs yesterday.  Winter has arrived.

It happens every year.  I could well imagine people buying or using our service are mystified by the fuss.  Having just celebrated our 65th birthday as an NHS, we ought to have worked out how to do this by now. Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog – July 2013

67% of patients we admit as inpatients would be extremely likely “recommend our hospital to friends or family” with another 28% likely to.  Though many tell our healthcare assistants and nurses what a curious question they find this, as they wish no ill health on those they love!  Read more here

Chief Executive’s Blog  – June 2013

June is the start of my third month as the Trust’s Chief Executive.  I have had a tremendously exciting first few weeks.  I have of course visited all of our sites – Rowley Regis, Leasowes and Halcyon, City Hospital, Birmingham and Midland Eye Centre, Sandwell  General Hospital, our Learning Works team, and the Lyng – and spent time in our hospitals overnight as well as during the day. Read more here