Improving Together: Working together to improve together - CEO Caroline Donovan's Blog - 19 February 2024 | News and events

Improving Together: Working together to improve together - CEO Caroline Donovan's Blog - 19 February 2024

I am very proud to be a nurse and am delighted to celebrate Mental Health Nurses Day this Wednesday which gives us an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the work and commitment of our mental health nurses. 

The impact that nurses have on the lives of those they provide care for, and work with, should not be underestimated. Mental Health nursing is not only a career choice, but also a life choice. Many of these colleagues often put the needs of our patients above their own, and for this I am incredibly grateful and humbled.

I am really proud that our preceptorship programme, supporting newly qualified nurses, has been awarded the ‘gold standard’ National Preceptorship Quality Mark. This is a huge achievement – it means giving these professionals the best possible start to their careers and demonstrates commitment to improving our culture by supporting our staff to deliver safe and effective care. My sincere thanks go to our Preceptorship Lead Glenda Jele, and the wider team for delivering this programme.

Our Chief Nursing Officer role is an essential board role that leads the development of a kind and compassionate culture, where high standards and person-centred care are our foundation. We have just begun recruiting nationally for this role which will be recruited to on a substantive basis. I look forward to involving our partners, service users and carers, alongside our own staff and Board in this very important appointment. We are also currently recruiting for a substantive Chief Medical Officer and a new Chief Transformation Officer role, further demonstrating our commitment to strengthening our Executive team at the Trust.

I was really pleased to attend our Council of Governors last week and presented an update on our improvement programme and progress. The Council, led by new Lead Governor Rebecca Toye, represents the views of Trust members and local people. The Council holds our Non-Executive Directors to account for the performance of the Trust Board, which is one of the reasons why it is so important I have time to engage with them and take time to listen to their feedback. At this meeting I discussed our strategic framework and gave updates on the progress of work aligned to our four priorities within: improving health, improving care, improving culture and improving value. 

I was also able to talk to them about our plan to exit the NHS England Recovery Support Programme (RSP) – this will only be possible upon delivery of our improvement plan at the end of this year. 

To ensure robust delivery we have now realigned and integrated our plans for the exit of the RSP programme with our wider large-scale change programmes, which are aligned to our four strategic priorities. We have to be realistic about the challenges we face, not least those resulting from the concerns presented, and lessons we have received, regarding our approach to learning from deaths.   

This plan was also shared at a meeting with NHS England that I, and my Executive colleagues, were invited to last week. Reassuringly our realigned approach was endorsed by those in attendance.

Vital of course to the delivery of our plans is continued collaboration with our partners and those who have experiences of our services. I continue to do this and have spent time, alongside our Chair Zoë, meeting with local MPs Duncan Baker and Peter Aldous to keep them informed of our improvement journey and also ensuring we are being responsive to the needs of their constituents. 

Additionally, I had the pleasure of meeting Alice Webster, Chief Executive at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in King’s Lynn (QEH) and separately Nick Hulme, Chief Executive at East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust (ESNEFT). Physical and mental health issues often overlap and so it was pleasing to hear how the work of our Mental Health Liaison teams, situated in the QEH and ESNEFT, provide a vital bridge for their staff, and most importantly those patients who find themselves in need of simultaneous physical and mental health care. The team at QEH were recently accredited by the Royal College of Psychiatrists for the quality of care they provide – thank you to everyone involved and to those teams offering this service in our other neighbouring hospitals.

As part of our renewed Improvement Programme, a really important focus is networking externally and learning from good practice.  Professor Oliver Shanley OBE completed an independent review into Greater Manchester Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust. There is much to learn and I am pleased that Professor Shanley has agreed to share his experience of the review with our Trust Board as part of our board development sessions. The themes have parallels with some of those we have to learn and so his input will be hugely beneficial as we continue to deliver much needed improvements at NSFT.

Finally, a look to the week ahead. As previously shared, one of our priorities is improving culture and a key area of work to enable this is our Listening into Action programme – a tried and tested method of engaging staff to empower them to make changes to ultimately improve the care we offer. As mentioned previously, I have been delighted by the huge response to this from our staff and this week I commence the hosting of a series of LiA Conversations across Norfolk and Suffolk. I am so looking forward to these events – they’ll give me a fantastic opportunity to meet even more of our staff, and to really understand their experiences of working at the Trust and how they can be supported to change things for the better. If any staff are reading this who would like to join one of these events and haven’t signed up yet, do so as soon as possible as places are filling quickly.

Until next time and with continued thanks for everything you do.


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