Improving Together: Listening to and learning from our service users, families, carers, partners and staff is key - CEO Caroline Donovan's Blog - 15 April 2024 | News and events

Improving Together: Listening to and learning from our service users, families, carers, partners and staff is key - CEO Caroline Donovan's Blog - 15 April 2024

Throughout my blog this week, you will see a number of key themes emerge. These focus on our work to improve both safety and quality, as well as supporting our existing and future colleagues to improve the culture of our organisation. 

Last week, we welcomed Antony Deery to NSFT as our interim Chief Nursing Officer. Anthony joined us on Monday 8 April from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. Anthony is a Registered General Nurse and a Registered Mental Health Nurse and is passionate about the human rights of people in mental health and learning disability services, with a focus on safe, high-quality services, good clinical governance and advocacy.

Anthony brings a wealth of experience and knowledge to NSFT, having worked across clinical, managerial, commissioning and regulatory roles in mental health and social care systems, in both the UK and in the United States including working as a Chief Nurse.  Anthony will take an important lead on many aspects of our quality improvement work that is already underway across our Trust.

I would like to say a huge thank you to Tumi Banda who will be leaving NSFT at the end of April. Tumi had decided that he was not going to apply for our substantive Chief Nurse post, which is currently being advertised nationally. Tumi will be joining the nursing team at Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (EPUT). I know you will join me in thanking Tumi for all he has done and in wishing Tumi all the very best for his future, and in welcoming Anthony to our NSFT team.

Last week, our Chair Zoë and I led a joint informal Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting where both Norfolk and Suffolk HOSC members came together, along with Gary O’Hare, our Governance and Safety Advisor, Tricia D’Orsi, Executive Director of Nursing from NHS Norfolk and Waveney and Dr Andrew Kelso, Medical Director from NHS Suffolk and North East Essex. It was a very helpful session, which had positive feedback, as well as our improvement plan. 

These committees are very important because they scrutinise the care the local NHS is providing to our patients. I explained our improvement journey, and answered questions from local Councillors, and Gary presented our Learning from Deaths work. This is so important as we continue learning as a Trust, working with our service users, carers and bereaved relatives. Whilst we have seen improvement in the way we capture, analyse and report on deaths, using our new, mostly automated platform from 1 November 2023, we must embed learning and ensure improvements are made in clinical practice across our organisation. Thanks to our teams that are helping us to move this work on at pace. And I would like to particularly recognise the invaluable contribution of our bereaved families in this important work.

Linked to improving the quality and safety of what we do as a Trust, I was really pleased to be part of our joint Board of Directors and Council of Governors meeting last week. I was able to present our ongoing improvement plans and our draft Trust strategy themes and received some really important feedback and contribution from our Governors. This will go to our Board of Directors meeting in public next month. 

Our Council of Governors heard about the important work we are focussing on linked to safer staffing, which Anthony Deery as our CNO will oversee. Over the last 12 months, we have seen a net increase in 62 nurses across our Trust, providing additional capacity and resource to care for, and support our service users, as well as additional clinical leadership and knowledge. 

Last week, I was pleased to interview some exceptional candidates for the role of Chief Medical Officer at our Trust. We have offered this role to our preferred candidate, and we are now going through our robust recruitment checks before we can formally announce who the successful candidate is. This is a vital role which will oversee and lead many vital areas of improvement and transformation to improve the outcomes and experiences of our service users, families and carers.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Albert Michael for his excellent work on our medical sponsorship scheme. I am pleased to confirm that The General Medical Council has approved our local sponsorship scheme; a scheme available nationally to offer assistance to those wishing to pursue a medical career based in mental health. This will help us to attract new senior and experienced medical workforce colleagues to our Trust. This is great progress and should help us with our continued focus and commitment to attracting people to come and work for us, supporting our long-term improvement and transformation work.

Another message of thanks goes to our colleagues working within and supporting our Mother and Baby Unit (MBU). The unit has very recently been granted Accreditation status by the College Centre for Quality Improvement of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, through its Perinatal Quality Network. 

This achievement is particularly significant as our MBU celebrates its fifth anniversary. The team's dedication, hard work, and commitment to excellence have played a pivotal role in this success.

This week, we reach an important milestone which will see the launch of the first phase of our consultation to implement of our Future Leadership Structure. A Hear to Listen event will provide high level detail of the consultation timeline, which roles are in and out of scope and when each phase of our consultation will start and end. Colleagues are encouraged to attend this event or where this isn’t possible, watch it back afterwards. Further information will be shared later this week and I would like to particularly thank everyone who has shared their views so far and fed into our proposals.

Finally, I was delighted to attend the last in a series of Listening into Action Conversation events in Norwich last week. It was a full room, with lots of great ideas and suggestions for improvement across our Trust. A total of seven events have taken place since the end of February across Norfolk and Suffolk. It really has been great to meet so many different people and teams across our Trust.

I’d like to focus on two quick wins in particular that stick out for me since holding these events which are fundamentally important to both our service users, families and carers and our staff. It is important to remember that small things can make a big difference to our service users, families, carers and our staff:

  • The team at Thurlow House raised the issue of needing a therapeutic garden for our service users, as well as our staff working at this site. They were struggling for space for it, as well as funding. As a result of discussing this with colleagues across the Trust and with those who attended a Listening into Action event, we have been able to identify a patch of land for the garden, sought a contractor and moved into the creation stage of the therapeutic garden. We are also working with the College of West Anglia to support us with this.
  • Colleagues in our Great Yarmouth and Waveney Locality raised concerns around not knowing who their HR Business Partner is in their care group or who to ask for HR support. The LiA team met with our HR Business Partner team who have produced a very clear overview of who does what in HR and this has been shared with colleagues in Great Yarmouth and Waveney as well as across our Trust. Despite this being a small task, the ability to have this information easily and clearly means our staff can spend less time on trying to figure out how to do things, improving both our working environment and contributing positively to our culture as an organisation.

Further information and next steps following these Listening into Action events will be communicated with you all shortly. 

Thank you for your ongoing hard work, determination, energy and focus. Whilst many challenges remain, which we continue to focus on, it is important to recognise the progress we are making – both individually and collectively as a Trust.

Until next time,


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