Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 3 November 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


Last week we held a compassion debate in the hospital, and I was very disappointed that a prior work commitment meant that I couldn't be there. However, I know that the lecture theatre was absolutely full, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing the video of the whole discussion. I see this debate as an important part of our ongoing journey in ensuring that compassion is at the heart of the culture at UHS. We need to continue this 'big conversation' and I know that there are very interesting ideas about how to take the discussion out across the organisation and into the community.

Much of the debate is about what exactly compassion is, how we should define it, and how we can support everyone in the trust to treat their patients and colleagues with compassion.

Fundamentally I believe that compassion is about treating each person as an individual – as one patient recently wrote to me, describing that she felt that she was treated as if she was "the only patient in the hospital". We aspire to do this for all patients, but we all know that this can be difficult, when we are busy and under pressure. In these circumstances it can be easy to lose sight of the fact that every single patient, and everyone of our colleagues, are individuals with our own hopes and fears.

Over the last year we have been lucky enough to have a hospital poet in residence, Pearl Elizabeth Dell May, working with patients in our elderly care wards to record their memories of the Second World War, and create Haikus from their stories. I would highly recommend reading these as powerful reminders of the reality of living in Southampton throughout the war, and how privileged we are to care for elderly patients who are each unique individuals who have led rich and fascinating lives.

One Haiku which struck me as particularly poignant runs as follows:

Dad on the back doorstep
counting the planes out on raids
counting them back safe.

Of course treating people as individuals is tricky because individuals want different things, and sometimes, particularly when they're unwell or in stressful situations in hospital, it's not always easy for them to communicate these needs.

This was brought home to me in a recent letter from a woman who had undergone treatment for breast cancer. She wrote to me to say thank you, and mentioned many different staff including the ward and recovery nursing staff, oncologist, ward clerk, anaesthetist, housekeeper, matron, volunteers and the interventional radiology and nuclear medicine teams. She told me how devastating her diagnosis had been, but how proud she was that her hospital had such a high calibre of staff. But it was her description of a nurse on Bramshaw Ward which summed up compassion to me:

"nothing was too much bother for my nurse ... She is my idea of what constitutes a ‘great nurse’. She was informative and intuitive, kind and caring. She knew when I wanted to be left alone to cry, but was also there when I wanted to talk ... "

This is what compassion means to me.

Fiona Dalton

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