Chief executive's blog - 10 June 2019

Staff and teamwork help us push through the barriers

In this blog, our CEO Paula Head reflects on how staff and teamwork help us meet our goals and achieve positive outcomes for patients.

Photo - Paula Head

Since I joined UHS in September I have been overwhelmed by the drive and determination I have seen from so many staff to achieve excellence.

The challenges facing the NHS in terms of capacity, resource and workforce are well-documented and that is a daily battle we are not immune from as we contend with growing demand on our services.

But what separates average organisations that wilt under the pressure from those who push through the barriers to deliver to the highest standards day in, day out is simple: staff and teamwork.

To form and maintain a great team, we need goals to keep us focused on the task in front of us. For me, those are clear.

We must place improving the patient journey at the heart of all we do, deliver value-based healthcare, support healthy lives of our patients and staff, build an expert, engaged and inclusive workforce, be responsive to people’s needs and ensure we are at the forefront of leading edge research, education and innovation.

These form the basis of how we will keep moving forward and developing as an organisation and I want us all to think about how the work we do fits in with these aims.

I was fascinated to find out about the pioneering ‘surgery school’ initiative set up by the perioperative medicine team, which is not only improving patients’ fitness and lifestyle prior to surgery but is also having a lasting impact through educating patients on making permanent changes to their lives.

This, for me, typifies the forward thinking we have across UHS, not only meeting our goals but also being ahead of the game when it comes to some of the visions outlined in the NHS Long Term Plan around prevention and health inequalities.

Going back to my point about the importance of teamwork, I was inspired to learn recently of the work of the oral and maxillofacial surgery team and the latest audit of facial reconstructions following head and neck cancer.

This is extremely complex and skilled work which involves taking skin from the thigh to replace tissue in the head and neck after a tumour has been removed and requires a huge team effort. The surgery alone can take between 12 and 15 hours in theatre.

It is quite astonishing, given the complexity of the patients treated, that the team at UHS has a success rate for this surgery of 99.4% compared to a national average of 91%, with success determined by whether or not the tissue survives.

When the clinical lead, Sanjay Sharma, was asked how the team delivered such impressive results, his response was a perfect reflection of the UHS culture I have come to know already. Failure of the surgery can not only be demoralising for patients and the staff involved, but repeat surgery – which can go on to be required more than once – costs in the region of £75,000 a time.

“It is all about teamwork,” he said. “Marginal gains make a lot of difference.”

Well done to Sanjay and all of the individuals and teams involved. It is this commitment to excellence that will ensure UHS continues to move from strength to strength.

Paula Head