Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 8 April 2015

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

We talk about culture a lot – everyone agrees that it’s important, but it's hard to define and harder to measure. How do we know when we’ve got it right?

I’ve been thinking about this and have come to the conclusion that one of the tests of the right culture is how we support each other. In a hospital, we all do difficult jobs – physically, emotionally, intellectually – and we can only keep doing them, and doing them as well as we possibly can, with the support of others. 

In the year and a half that I’ve been back at UHS, I have been so grateful for the personal support that I’ve received from staff across the organisation – to everyone who has ever emailed me or stopped me in the corridor to ask how I am, thank you! You probably don’t realise what a difference you have made to my energy and morale at tricky moments.

Support comes in so many different forms – and of course it’s very personal. Sometimes an informal conversation with a friend or work colleague is exactly what we need but, at other times, something more structured is very helpful, and that’s why it is so important that there is a real range of sources of support - from occupational health to the chaplains, from mentoring to coaching - to try to ensure that everyone can find the right support for them.

I know that as an organisation we don’t always get this right, and I’m keen that we keep improving, and expanding the range of support that is available. I was therefore very pleased to meet a group of our staff support advisors last week. These are staff members from many different grades and professions across the hospital who have volunteered to be available to talk to any member of staff who feels that they need advice or support. I heard these volunteers sharing how they had listened to colleagues who were struggling with a variety of tricky personal issues, difficult relationships with colleagues or tensions with managers - and describing how they had listened without judgement, and helped to explore options to improve the situation. All the issues were, of course, anonymised.

Listening in, I knew that this was the culture that we wanted, where we support and look after each other to do some difficult things. 

And when we get this culture right, we also get care right for patients. The following words were written by a gentleman whose wife of nearly 50 years was cared for, and eventually sadly died, at our hospital. I have reproduced these words, with the author’s permission, because I thought they were beautifully written, and a very powerful example of the hospital at its best:  

“Your hospital and its specialists and nursing staff have been absolutely wonderful in dealing with my wife's care and treatment and your staff in the A&E, the Seniors Area, AMU Pink, D5 and G6 deserve a huge "Thank You" for the way in which they dealt with my wife and the way in which they continue to deal with their daily tasks of caring for the sick and the elderly patients they have in their wards, in very difficult and often stressful conditions ...

 ... despite the very best of care and efforts by all your specialists in the gastro, pulmonary, respiratory and nutritional care specialisations, my wife's condition deteriorated and she passed away after two months of pretty intensive attention to her multiple and complex conditions and medical problems.

Although it denied me of having her at home for her final days, throughout the two months [my wife] was under your care [the clinical team was] totally honest, highly professional in your treatment of her and very compassionate with us both. They completely understood our needs and feelings and in the end they made the end of her life comfortable, pain-free and dignified for her, easier for me and my children to accept and easier for us to understand why we had lost such a huge part of our family and our lives.

My wife was always a very strong-willed lady and that trait stayed with her to the very end. She was my wife for nearly 50 years and was always my best friend. She fought hard to stay with us but her various problems were really insurmountable and were aggravated by the grip they had on her respiratory and vascular systems. Despite all our best efforts we were unable to defeat them and while it is very very difficult for us all to come to terms with the fact that she is no longer here with us in body, her spirit will live forever in our memories and we know we will come to terms with our loss, in the passage of time, of a wonderful wife, mother, grandmother and friend to many who loved her.

The care, attention and compassion we have been shown were faultless. When my time is up (hopefully, not for many years yet) I want to be cared for by Southampton General Hospital and my children already know this and agree that they will do everything within their power to make that happen.”

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

So refreshing to read in the light of all the slings and arrows thrown at our NHS, the best in the world, and specifically at Southampton's great hospital. This humble engineering-scientist is mainly preoccupied with medtech solutions, but as Robert Francis advised, culture is the overriding factor in managing an ideal hospital and health service.
Dick Wallis RN(rtd.) (30/04/2015 10:57:34)
A very interesting and heartfelt Blog ,I would love to be able read something like this from our chief Ex here in Colchester Essex England.
Ann ROUGHAN (09/04/2015 20:23:18)