Chief executive's blog - 11 February 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
Our second trust value, "working together" is about how we work as a team in our local wards and departments, across the hospital and between ourselves and other organisations as one NHS.
Most of us have been lucky enough to know the amazing ‘buzz’ that you get when you’re part of a great team – and how our individual efforts can be multiplied to achieve something so much better than its individual parts.
But the multiplicity of teams make it harder – the team is not just your own ward, or department, and the people that you know well, but a larger team of 10,000 employees and 1,000 volunteers at UHS, and ultimately 1.5 million people across the NHS.
Many of the patient letters that I receive emphasise this. Most letters don’t thank just one ward, or department – they thank the paramedics who brought them to the hospital, then the emergency and inpatient teams, often the cleaners and the porters, and then the rehabilitation support that they receive at home. Many patients don’t even realise that all of these people don’t work for the same NHS Trust – and that’s how it should be. When it works well, we are one NHS and we can provide seamless care for patients.
Making ‘working together’ easier can be about simple things. On an obscure wall on the fourth floor of trust head-quarters, where some of the finance team work, there are a variety of pieces of paper blue-tacked to the wall. It’s a ‘thank you wall’ and the messages are things like “thank you to Sarah for really helping me out with the month end reporting last week” and “thank you so much to the income management team for working so hard on Tuesday to hit our deadlines”. So simple and yet such a nice way for people to express their gratitude for support, and to show how much they value other individuals and teams.
But to get “working together” right also requires us to really challenge ourselves. For instance, one of the most important parts of “working together” must be a welcoming of diversity. We are very lucky in Southampton to have people from all over the world working here. We employ, and care for, people from many different backgrounds, with different religious beliefs, ethnicities, sexualities, abilities and disabilities. This is great because there is good evidence that a diverse team performs much better than a team where everyone has the same background – because individuals bring different ideas and perspectives.
One of the ways that the NHS is now checking how good we are at treating people from all backgrounds with equality and respect is the ‘Workforce Race Equality Standard’ (WRES). This simply requires organisations to measure, and then publish, data, on how staff and prospective staff from difference ethnic backgrounds are treated; and then to agree a plan for how to address any apparent inequalities.
As with many simple things, it’s very powerful. The WRES data holds a mirror up to our organisation – but sadly the reflection is not what we would ideally like to see. The link is here but in summary, the data shows that if you are from a black or ethnic minority background, you are less likely to be in a senior (non-medical) position in this organisation. Even once you have been shortlisted, you are less likely to be successful in a job application. And you are more likely to be subject to formal disciplinary processes. This is not comfortable reading for any of us.
We in UHS are not alone in this. This situation reflects not just the majority of the NHS but society in general. It’s not something that most organisations are willing to talk about, but I think we need to be better than this. Just as with patient safety, where progress was made by the organisations who were firstly willing to identify incidents, and then focus on what could be done to prevent the same thing happening again, we will make progress on this issue by accepting that there is a problem and working out how we can address it.
It’s not easy but this must be our responsibility as one of the largest employers in our region, and one of the leading teaching hospitals in the country.
It’s a privilege to me to lead such a diverse organisation and we must ensure that we all value this diversity. We know that we can get this right. As one of the ward sisters said, when talking about her very ethnically diverse ward, “We are not a team, we are a family”.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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