Fiona Dalton, CEO

Chief executive's blog - 9 December 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


In my last blog I talked about the pressures on the hospital's capacity, and about the urgent need to increase our bed numbers and work with our partners to help move the large numbers of our patients who could be treated closer to home. But I also said that we knew that we could also improve the ways that things work inside the hospital, and that I really wanted to spend more time listening to front line staff, and their ideas for change.

Following on from this, last week was "Make a Difference" week. I was very proud of how engaged people were in this initiative, despite the hospital being under immense pressure, particularly because of the levels of norovirus in the community and therefore within the hospital. Senior doctors and nurses and managers spent time shadowing ward rounds and in discharge meetings, and we spent fourteen hours in open 'listening sessions' reflecting on what worked and what didn't, and how we could do things differently.

The outcome was 298 ideas from the frontline, and these ranged from the small things which frustrate front line staff in their day to day jobs (such as computers not talking to the right printer), to system redesign (such as how to re-think the concept of ward rounds). And towards the end of the week, some truly inspirational conversations about how we can "walk in each other's shoes" and how different teams can really understand each other's pressures.

The whole week reminded me of why I wanted to come back to work at Southampton. There is a real culture here of wanting to deliver better care tomorrow than we did yesterday. Our research and development, and our education and training work, is integral to this - and a key part of the commitment to innovation and thinking differently.

The challenge now is how we take action on this fantastic list of ideas, and how we feedback to everyone who contributed. Where we are able to fix a small problem quickly we are doing just that. However, there are some larger themes that came up again and again during the week which are more complex to tackle and need some focussed time to bring about the change required. I will be exploring ways of recruiting some volunteers to work with me on some of these areas and will be holding meetings in January to take this work forward. 

I think the week has showed me how important it is to keep listening to front line staff and I will be continuing to hold regular open sessions where any topic can be raised openly with me.

Continuing the themes of new ideas and listening, I am testing out a new idea of my own to try to hear the patients' voice in a different way. I have invited a group of patients who have been recently treated in the hospital to come and have lunch with me, and talk about their experiences. I hope in this way to understand much better how it feels to be a patient in our hospital, and how we can improve this.

Finally, I couldn't let this week go past without mentioning Trauma Level One which was filmed in this hospital and broadcast last week on ITV. For anyone who didn't get the chance to see it, it's still available on the Internet via ITV player and I would really recommend it. Our teams within the hospital, and our colleagues in the ambulance service were very impressive, and as I learnt at this week's neurosciences mortality and morbidity meeting, this impression is backed up with facts. We know from the national RAIN study that patients who come to Southampton with traumatic brain injury are more likely to survive, and to survive with less severe ongoing disability, than the national average.

But what will stay with me from this programme is the bravery of our patients and their families - from Harry (aged nine) who, when asked by the orthopaedic surgeon "how's your leg?", answered "it's broken!" To the sister of Peter the paraglider, who described being told that the good news was that he was alive, and realising that if this was the good news, he must be very seriously injured.

Every one of these individuals faced life-changing events with dignity and courage - and I know that our patients do this every day across all of our services. And that's why I am determined to do everything that I can to ensure that we are able to give all of our patients the care that they deserve.

Fiona Dalton

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