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. My thanks not just to our staff, but also local GPs, social workers, and community workers. Of course hospital radio itself is made up of volunteers. Real dedication, and a reflection of what our NHS means to so many people in our communities. Hopefully in coming weeks we will get the patient wifi service up and running across our sites, and then get the radio service online and worldwide!
In winter 2013 we delivered better acute care than in 2012. So far in 2014 we are back under pressure, though in practice we are seeing more people in A&E in less than four hours than ever before. Meanwhile, we have repeated last year’s flu vaccination triumph, and are seeing more ambulances quickly offloaded safely. I am not denying the doom laden headlines, but I am fiercely proud of colleagues doing a great job under pressure. Still there is more to do, which is why this week we open another intermediate care ward and two mental health units. There is no let up as we aim to innovate. But I “get” that local people deserve a service in A&E able to meet the four hour standard. We do that in Eye Casualty and in children’s A&E. We will do so at City and at Sandwell for adults. We need no more encouragement, we want to succeed!
In recent weeks my staff have spent time with the local Overview and Scrutiny Committee of the Local Authority. In January we will support the CCG in their engagement work on changing acute surgery and cardiology. The former service largely moved to Sandwell Hospital six years ago, and the plan now is to complete that work. Interventional, complex cardiology will base itself at City, until the Midland Met opens in 2018/19 in Smethwick, Sandwell. These are big changes for patients, but especially for relatives visiting those they care for: We have work to do now to make sure transport supports the care we offer, especially in the evening and at weekends. At the same time, I have visited the district committees in Ladywood and Perry Barr to talk about how we support the voluntary sector locally, as we localise NHS care, and, we hope, localise social care. I was encouraged by councillors’ commitment to change, just as I was by the Sandwell Health and Wellbeing Board’s determination to improve mental health services – with a firm commitment from the CCG to confirm 2015/16 funding by December 31 2014. I am due a blog here a few days later – I am confident that promise will be kept.
One of our promises of course is is to reshape services to get better outcomes. That demands partnership, which is why I am proud to be through to the later stages of bids to provide End of Life Care locally, with Marie Curie, St Marys, St Johns and others. Meanwhile, we are supporting Sandwell Leisure Trust to provide lifestyle services in the borough. These bids are time consuming, and expensive frankly, but I hope the outcome in early 2015 will be more services kept locally and provided alongside the third sector. That is why we are proud that building work has now started on Hallam Street on our project with St Basils to convert old nursing premises into accommodation for new staff. That space will focus on young employees, coming out of school locally, at the same time as we partner with schools locally which is a clear strategy for the longer term. I think our Trust is distinctive in that we have a long term plan and are sticking to it. That consistency is not popular in every way, but I am convinced it is the right course – strikingly resonant of the recently published national NHS Five Year Forward View.
Merry Christmas to those who read this blog. I hope you are interested enough to return in 2015 – even better you might want to become a member here, and join our leadership council. This broadened governance will, we hope, help to make our Trust more inclusive, as we develop our 2020 Vision for consultation from the new year.