Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 14 November 2013

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

I joined University Hospital Southampton as the new chief executive last Monday and I don’t have the words to explain to you what an enormous privilege and honour it feels to have taken up this new role. 

I'd like to thank everyone for making me feel so welcome in my first week, but in particular a big thank you from me to Alastair Matthews, who has worked so hard as interim chief executive for the past few months and is continuing to provide invaluable support to me through my induction period, as well as doing his own very demanding job of finance director and deputy chief executive. 

It has been lovely this week to meet so many staff across the hospital – and whether it was the operating theatres team or the strategy team (planning, contracting and commercial development), the cystic fibrosis team or the anaesthetists, I was consistently struck by a sense of dedication and passion from everyone that I met. Common across all these groups of staff was a focus on patients, a real commitment to working as a team, and an ambition to continually improve the standard of care that we can give patients. 

Another highlight for me this week was hearing one of our upper GI surgeons, Tim Underwood, talk on Friday evening in Winchester about oesophageal cancer surgery. This was the first of a series of talks organised by the hospital to help the public understand better Southampton’s truly excellent clinical services and research, and how the two are inextricably bound together. The talk was fascinating and the number of questions from the audience showed how engaged they were, and how much they had taken on Tim’s messages about awareness and early diagnosis of oesophageal cancer. 

Low points of the week for me were reading some of our patient complaint letters, and knowing that sometimes we really fail patients and their families. The impact of a 'black alert' on emergency patients who spent too long in ED and on elective patients who we cancelled was also very troubling to me. I also heard feedback from a group of junior doctors that they haven’t always felt supported in their work in the hospital. This was very difficult to hear, but it was really important that we did hear it, and we can now focus on supporting the local team to sort out the issues. 

On Saturday I talked to staff and volunteers at a brilliant simulation event – a full scale mock-up of the new children’s emergency department, designed to test out the planned new layout and models of care. For several hours child and family volunteer actors arrived at the new department and were “treated” by teams of staff from children’s services and the emergency department. Everyone that I spoke to was so excited about how good the new department could be – and I was very impressed with this example of how we can test new models of care, take risks in a safe environment and work across different teams to design better ways to care for our patients. 

But my absolute personal highlight of the week was receiving a letter from one of our patients saying thank you to the hospital for caring for them so well. They were very grateful to all the staff who helped to treat them, and they mentioned many names, but there was one comment that stood out for me. They particularly wanted to thank Lee, a healthcare assistant on E4, who they said “treated me as he would treat his own Dad”. 

I can’t think of a better tribute, and I am so proud to lead a hospital where members of staff care for patients with so much compassion and commitment.

Fiona Dalton


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Page comments

I suggest your outgoing letters include
a relevant FAX no.

Jack V.Candy-14/5/2014
Jack V Candy (14/05/2014 19:54:49)
I'd like to thank the person who commented on this blog describing the problems some patients are experiencing when they need a wheelchair to get around at Southampton General Hospital. I have been asking about this and it seems that making wheelchairs available quickly at the main entrance is an ongoing challenge and while some steps have been taken to improve the situation, there is clearly more we can do to get this right. We are very grateful that Southampton Hospital Charity has recently purchased 38 new chairs for the hospital taking the total number to 55 and making a much-needed improvement to the situation. They are stored in six safe locations around the hospital but there is not enough room in main reception to have a large storage facility there and patients must ask our reception to call for a wheelchair to be brought with them which can take around 20 minutes. This is not ideal and we are working on a longer term solution which will be part of our plans to re-model the main entrance to improve reception and welcoming facilities for all patients. In the meantime we will be doing everything we can to improve the service within the current constraints.
Fiona Dalton (27/01/2014 11:12:57)
Thank you so much for taking the time to comment with a really important observation. I will look into it and post an update through this blog. Thanks again, Fiona
Fiona Dalton (18/11/2013 10:12:33)
As a member of staff at the General it is necessary for me to sign in at main Reception. One problem I am aware of quite often is the difficulty that patients and their carers have in locating a wheelchair to take them either to their appointments or to transport on leaving the hospital, and this is unacceptable. Please will you investigate at your earliest. Thank you.
Anonymous (15/11/2013 09:54:55)