Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 9 September 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

When I was woken last Thursday night by a phone call from the duty exec to tell me that a child had gone missing, I didn't anticipate that the hospital would spend the next week and a half at the centre of an international media storm.

I know that everyone shares my relief that Ashya is now in Prague Motol Hospital, where he will be able to receive the treatment that he needs.

At times over these recent, very intense few days, I have been left lost for words, but one of our emergency department consultants has written two 'tweets' that express my feelings better than I could myself.

The first read as follows:

"Of all medical specialities paediatric oncology must be one of the hardest. Young lives, devastating diseases, special doctors and nurses."

He is so right. During the past week I have got to know some of the Southampton paediatric oncology team very well. I have been humbled by their compassion, fortitude and forensic attention to detail under pressure. When their email inboxes were full of personal abuse from strangers, and there were journalists camped on their front door, they were still worrying about how we could do the best thing for a small boy in Spain.

I cannot imagine having to face the reality of your child being diagnosed with a brain tumour. But I do know that in this dreadful situation, I would want the support and care of this brilliant clinical team.

The second tweet said:

"Whilst the country's media looked for its next scoop @UHSFT today continued to provide top quality evidenced based care to its patients."

I know how hard this was on some days last week. Our switchboard and patient support services were overwhelmed with calls from irate members of the public. Our security team were busy trying to manage multiple camera crews and satellite vans, the clinical site team were attempting to maintain control of the situation alongside all the usual challenges of bed availability and our press team were besieged by the media, whilst trying to make measured judgements about how to respond to this unprecedented situation.

And many other people working here were being questioned by patients or the public about this situation, sometimes in a very aggressive way.

But through all of this we still had thousands of patients who needed care and treatment. And I'm so grateful to everyone who kept on doing their job, and making sure that we gave the best possible patient care that we could. Thank you so much to everyone for this. Thank you in particular to people who took on extra work to cover the usual work of their colleagues (like me!) who were trying to manage this particular issue. You have made me proud, once again, to be part of University Hospital Southampton.

Fiona Dalton


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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

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Page comments

We were absolutely disgusted at the abuse that the staff and others at the hospital have had to deal with. Everything which the doctors have said about this child has made sense and we feel angry that the media has turned this incident into a circus basically. Well done to all of the hospital staff.
christine Beal (27/09/2014 20:21:24)
I am a mother who have had a child brought in at last miniute nearly dying with a Badly Infected Chest and Shortage of breath and was told by the the on-call Doctor that if i bring in my son few minutes late, I could have not seen the face of my child on this earth again as he was just breathing the very last of Oxygen left in his body. To my amazed, scan machines were just wheeled onto the place where we were at in one of the Wards we were refered to from Home. STaffs treated him with all that they could do and with all these I do believe I do play an important role here as a mother I am responsible more than these Medical Team and I was accepting the fact that if anything happens, I am more to be blamed for regarding my situation. BUT my whole family personally thank God for allowing my family to live near such a wonderful Hospital who delivers such timely care and the staff are more than what a patient could ask for. Very friendly environment and very loveable Staffs.
At this moment when i see my child growing up and this incident was just last year, i can still be reminded of how great it and I thank God for giving us such a wonderful Health Care Facility such as SOUTHAMPTON GENERAL HOSPITAL. God Bless UHS
Anonymous (18/09/2014 09:32:24)

It is my firm belief, from personal experience that you and the staff of UHS operate only in the best interest of the patient and that any actions taken by UHS were out of a genuine concern for the well being of the patient.

Any negative comments that you and the staff of UHS have had to deal with over this issue was by people who do not understand this.
Peter Connolly (11/09/2014 23:05:51)

I feel very sad at the way members of the public have abused UHS and humbled at the way staff in all departments have coped with the abuse and continued to give the usual high standards of care. It,s not been an easy time for anyone
Anonymous (11/09/2014 19:17:34)
The 2nd tweet talks of evidence based medicine. Clearly the evidence used by the pead onc team was different from what is used in Prague
Anonymous (11/09/2014 15:39:21)
Well done to all the staff who continued to work through this distressing, and exhausting, few days dealing with the media frenzy. It was unfortunate that some of the public reacted with vitriol-without having the full facts. Thank you Fiona for leading your colleagues through such choppy waters. We wish Ashya, and his family, 'good luck' as the next stage of his treatment in Prague commences.
Aelwen Emmett (11/09/2014 10:13:43)
Dear Ms Dalton,

My son was treated by the oncologists and the dedicated medical team of Piam Brown ward 12 years ago, as a 13-month-old baby, and was under their care for more than 10 years.

When my son was under the care of the children oncology team in Southampton, we experienced meticulous care, medical expertise, compassion, and empathy from the professionals - oncologists, registrars, nurses....... We also benefited from the seamless co-ordination between the Southampton medical team with Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, and community nurses. As the young patient's mother, I felt valued, and was informed and educated by your medical team. Every consultation was informative, and difficult issues were well-explained.

We would like to thank your hard-working, dedicated and brilliant medical team, especially the children oncology unit, Piam Brown Ward. My son has just recently been discharged. When we looked back on the past 12 years, we are grateful that my son was in the care of your team. Piam Brown ward is not a cancer ward of fear, it is a place of care, love, and hope.
Janet Williams (09/09/2014 18:09:33)