Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 29 January 2016

In my personal blog, I'll keep you up to date on what's happening at the Trust, sharing what I think we're doing well and what we can improve.

Fiona Dalton, chief executive

First of all I wanted to wish everyone a very happy 2016. I thought that it would be a good way to start the New Year by writing about each of our values, in turn.

Our three trust values are so important because they are what unites everyone who works at UHS - whether they work in the neonatal unit or elderly care, as a community midwife or a therapy radiographer, in the pathology laboratories or the finance department.

Last year we talked about values a lot across the trust - and I heard a very clear consensus throughout the hospital that we had agreed on the right values, and that they resonated with the vast majority of people. This year I'm encouraging every team to think together about what the values really mean to them, and therefore what they expect from each other on a day to day basis. I've seen a couple of teams do this, and create a very clear locally agreed list of the behaviours that they all aspire to.

Our values will mean something different in practice for every team in the hospital, but I thought that for each value I should pick out just one example of where we're succeeding, and one example where we still have work to do.

In terms of our value "patients first" I see individuals and teams putting this into practice every day throughout UHS. To pick just one example, I heard last week about an innovation which has been trialled at Countess Mountbatten House. One of the doctors in this team was concerned about patients having to be transferred to the general hospital site for ultrasound scans to establish whether or not they had ascites that needed draining. For CMH patients, an ambulance transfer and possible emergency admission would almost certainly cause additional distress and so the team used charitable funds to buy an ultrasound machine and arranged for local training so that they can do the scan at CMH. This means that only patients who definitely have significant ascites are transferred for planned ultrasound guided insertion of an ascitic drain.

This innovation struck me as a great example of 'patients first' because it is so clearly the right thing for these individual patients, but also other patients as it reduces pressure on the emergency capacity on the Southampton General Hospital site. But what about the financial impact? Well it definitely saves money for the NHS, as we have to spend less on transport, and extra costs for looking after patients in the general hospital. But in terms of the financial impact on UHS, I'm actually not sure. We will have saved some costs, but we'll also have probably lost the income for another patient 'spell'.

To be honest, I'm happy that we haven't tried to work out the financial impact on UHS. If it's right for the patient, and saves the overall NHS money, then we need to do it.

This example is just one out of many great examples that I could have picked. However, we know that we still have much work to do to be able to say that everything we do is ‘patients first’. For instance, one issue that is consistently raised to me by patients and their relatives is discharge, and how they find the process slow and frustrating, even when there are no other organisations involved. Of course it can be a complex process to ensure that patients are safe to go home, that the documentation is organised, their drugs are ready and their transport is booked. But we know that unless we get this right we aren't truly delivering on 'patients first' – for the patients waiting to go home or the patients waiting to be admitted. Some clinical teams in the hospital have recently made great strides in improving their processes in this area, which we are measuring with our ‘home before lunch’ project -  and this has given me confidence that we really can solve this issue.

If I'm talking about patients first, then it feels appropriate to give a patient the last word. The following words are reproduced, with permission, from a recent patient letter where we got it right:

“It struck me as I was taken in, operated upon and went through the post-operative phase that every member of staff that I encountered, whether clinical or the myriad of support staff, was focussed on making my stay as easy as it could be. All of them gave the impression that they were focussed on my health and well-being; they all had time to answer my questions and had empathy and a real sense of vocational caring for me as an individual. Please feel free to pass on my thanks to the consultant team, the nursing team and the cleaners and the cooks – all of them in my humble opinion are real stars who all contributed to my very positive outcome.”

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

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Page comments

It is good and right to have a patients first value, one which I have exemplified in all my work and I know many other staff who do.
But what about those staff? Who looks after them? Who makes sure they are ok? who cares for the people who do the caring? Where is this on your agenda? Staff who are now being asked to help provide the new 7 day hospital, without extra resources, taking time from our family life and leisure time, staff already not looked after enough.
We joined the NHS because we already care about the patients and because we want to help them, and some of us exhaust all our resources to do it. Who will support us? Will you look at it?
Anonymous (29/03/2016 16:21:34)