Fiona Dalton-abseiling down the Spinnaker Tower

Chief executive's blog - 4 July 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


This week I spoke at the Trust’s annual patient improvement framework day.

In the back of my mind, when I was preparing for this, was the recent publication of the Commonwealth study, which compared different international health systems. You may well have seen this on the news – on a variety of different indicators the NHS came out an outstanding first.

We should be very proud of the NHS, and what our teams do, mostly without drama or particular thanks, every single day. And I personally feel very lucky to live in this country where we have this great institution.

But given how well the NHS does compared to other health systems, why do we need a patient improvement framework?

I think there are several reasons. Firstly, other health systems are getting better and we don't want to be overtaken! We want the NHS to remain the best in the world. But also, we know all healthcare across the world is far from perfect. Too many mistakes happen, and too many patients have a poor experience. We can improve this. And finally, everyone's expectations are rising, along with scientific breakthroughs and the development of new technology.

So this is a constant challenge. But as I've said before, I think that one of the striking things about the culture at UHS is the constant drive for improvement. I see it with the mealtime volunteers, talking to me about how we can try to improve nutrition for elderly patients on G level. I see it when I talk to the cancer immunology research team, who are working on the most amazing science in terms of how the body's own immune system can fight cancer.

To think about improvement, I imagine choosing any condition / disease (for instance, heart disease, cancer, fractured neck of femur, cataracts, dementia). Then I imagine having this condition and being able to choose any year since the NHS was founded to be treated. Which year would I choose?

Almost always, my choice would be this year, regardless of the condition. And that's because technology generally improves, and the NHS generally does get better every year.

But our challenge is that if did this thought experiment again in a year's time, we need to make sure that we would choose 2014/15.

Finally, I wanted to say thank you very much to everyone who sponsored me to abseil off the Spinnaker Tower last weekend. I will remember the amazing view from the top of the Isle of Wight and the Solent – and definitely deciding not to look down! I’ll also remember the camaraderie on the small platform high above the ground, and talking to the other abseilers about why they chose to do this. Many of them were our patients, or relatives of our patients, and when someone said “I’m more scared now than when I was facing my twelve hour operation” it reminded me how brave our patients have to be every day.

Thank you.

Fiona Dalton

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Page comments

Dear Fiona, firstly I would like to congratulate you on your appointment as chief executive at UHS. I wish you success in what will be very challenging post.
I have been keeping track of your blogs over recent months and find your sincerity and gratitude towards staff along with a real sense of concern for the welfare of patients and their experience so reassuring. I wish you success in your endeavours. May all busy Chief executives across the NHS take a leaf from your book in their endeavours to engage with patients and staff alike.
With very best wishes to you and the wondeful staff at UHS.
Cathy de Carteret Guernsey, Channel Islands (05/08/2014 23:24:57)