Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 7 January 2014

In my personal blog, I will keep you up to date on what is happening at the Trust, sharing what I think we are doing well and what we can improve.

Fiona Dalton, chief executive 

As I write this in the midst of January storms, Christmas already seems a long time ago, but the experience of walking round the hospital on Christmas Day remains fresh in my mind. For me it was a great opportunity to talk to staff across the hospital on a quieter than normal shift, and to say thank you to everyone for working through the traditional ‘holiday’ period. I am particularly grateful to Gail Byrne who interrupted her attempt to cook Christmas dinner with no electricity in order to walk round the hospital with me. I’m only sorry that we didn’t have time to get to every ward and department, but I will try to visit the others next year.

Hospitals are always fundamentally about people, and these are the people who I will remember from Christmas 2013:

  • The Portuguese nurse on the acute surgery unit who told me that it was her first Christmas away from her family, but that her mum had sent her a box of food and she felt really lucky to be working on such a great unit.
  • The healthcare assistant on one of the medicine for older people wards who simply said "I love my job".
  • All the matrons that I saw in the hospital, in uniform, who were making sure that their wards were doing the best that they could for their patients this Christmas.
  • The Polish man with the bruised and cut face, whose eyes filled with tears as he explained to me in broken English that he had been mugged on Christmas Eve and had no money at all. And the AMU staff who were trying to help him.
  • The midwifery assistant who was taking advantage of a quiet Christmas morning shift to catch up with her statutory online child protection training.
  • All the trainee doctors who I met, some of whom were working on Christmas Day for the first time (and looked young enough to make me feel very old!), but were all thoughtful and committed to doing the best job that they could.
  • The man sitting beside his baby son in paediatric HDU, who told me that he had thought the baby was fine, but his wife thought he wasn't 'quite right' so they had come to the emergency department. He told me how great both the ED and the paediatric team had been, and how they should be able to go home again very soon, and I could see in his face that he still couldn't quite believe what had happened, and what had nearly happened.
  • All the hospital staff who I met – because every single person was focussed, caring and enthusiastic, and all cheerfully putting their own Christmas on hold to care for patients.

And after Christmas comes New Year... This year, along with my annual (doomed!) resolutions to be generally better in every way, I do have a specific resolution, which is to cycle more often to work. There's lots of national evidence that cycling or walking to work makes your life happier as well as healthier - and of course it's one small thing that we can do to help protect the environment. 27 March is designated NHS Sustainability Day, when the impact of the NHS on the environment is highlighted, and I am keen that we take this seriously and consider what else we can do to play our role in the sustainability agenda. However in the meantime the hospital's cycling changing rooms (just next to the eye hospital) are a really great facility for us all and I would encourage anyone who can to take advantage of them.

And as for how I will try to work in 2014, my mind keeps coming back to the quote "Create light not heat". There's a lot of heat aimed at the NHS nationally, and on occasions it feels like a lot of heat aimed at me personally. I cannot take away this pressure - and indeed I wouldn't want to take away pressure to treat our patients better - but I will always try to ensure I reflect this pressure in the form of light, to illuminate problems and their solutions, rather than just passing on the heat.

Finally, I want to wish everyone who works at the hospital a very happy new year. 2013 has been very challenging for the trust, but despite this we have treated more patients than ever before, with a good experience and outcome for the vast majority. I am sure 2014 will be equally challenging, but having met so many of the dedicated and highly skilled staff here, I know that we can rise to these challenges. 

Recently a patient insisted on speaking to me personally about the great care that she had received here, and one of the things that she said about the clinical team who treated her was that “there were not many people in the world like them – they were lovely and genuine as well as being clever”. I feel very fortunate to know so many people at UHS who fit this description.

Fiona Dalton


We welcome your comments on this blog.

If you have any specific concerns or need advice about the care you have received at our hospitals, please contact our patient support services on 023 8120 6325 or

Please note the Trust reserves the right not to publish any responses which are offensive or inappropriate.

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Page comments

Congratulations to Fiona Dalton on her new appointment as Chief Executive and a personal blog is a superb opportunity to communicate directly with patients and their relatives . I very much wish I had bumped into Fiona as she walked her wards on Christmas Day, the stories that have been recounted in her blog are so inspiring and heart rendering.. As Fiona says she is more interested in the light than the heat and this is a great approach. I would really like the opportunity to meet with Fiona in order that myself and my family can have the opportunity to 'shed some light'
Anonymous (19/01/2014 13:27:05)
Inspiring to hear how inspired you are by the amazing staff in Southampton.
Ruth Dixon del Tufo (14/01/2014 18:47:42)
re Peter Oliver's comment
The unit was E1 - pediatric cardiology (octopus ward)
rebecca (13/01/2014 16:55:26)
Comment: We have just spent 2 days at SGH (exemplary care as always). However, we were in an overheated ward, with windows wide open day and night to obtain ventilation, and no means of adjusting the heating. How is this an appropriate use of Trust funds? And how does this fit with the Trust's pledge to reduce it's carbon footprint.

Response: The Trust is currently doing well in reducing its carbon footprint and we are on course in meeting our statuary CO2e targets. With regard to the overheated ward we do have heating standards which we try to adhere to but it is quite possible an item of heating plant or control system has malfunctioned in this case. Unfortunately it would be difficult to trace unless we know in which ward or area the problem exists. If the contributor could respond with the location I will arrange to have the heating checked.
Peter Oliver, energy manager (13/01/2014 10:04:23)
This is very interestion
John (13/01/2014 09:18:24)
We have just spent 2 days at SGH (exemplary care as always). However, we were in an overheated ward, with windows wide open day and night to obtain ventilation, and no means of adjusting the heating. How is this an appropriate use of Trust funds? And how does this fit with the Trust's pledge to reduce it's carbon footprint.
rebecca weller (10/01/2014 08:59:36)