Monday 16 December 2013

The Human Beings Behind the Trust Boards - Dan Bowen

Dan Bowen works in the NHS here in the UK. He runs a blog entitled Life on Wings a tribute to Ern Baxter. Here is a copy of his contrarian blogpost....contrarian to the steady stream of depressive information mostly issuing from lack of NHS funding that appears virtually daily in the press.

The Human Beings Behind the Trust Boards

I am writing this short blog post inspired by a tremendous friend I have yet to have the privilidge to meet (awesome Twitter effect again!).  Rev Dave is a chaplain in Worcester and he runs an outstanding blog celebrating the good news stories within the NHS.  This is something we both feel PASSIONATELY about and have spoken of much.  Much of the media focus on the NHS at the moment is negative - and perhaps rightly so.  There have been awful cases of unforgivable poor care and we must learn, take responsibility and make every effort to ensure it never happens again - and as NHS privilidged staff weREALLY make every contact count.

Rev Dave was published recently in local media writing an article about his local Trust Board that profoundly impacted me because of it's unique slant and his passionately, positive attitude shining through.  So I want to reflect somewhat similarly on my local Trust Board at Birmingham Children's Hospital FT.  I could write about many NHS Trust Boards that I have watched through the wonderful medium of Twitter and the new transparent accountability it brings (national heroes of mine include Chief Nurse of NHS England, Jane CummingsNHS Employers CEO Dean RoylesPatient Experience Lead for NHS England, Kath Evans and of course - never forgetting Sir David Nicholson, CEO of NHS England himself - among many others such as the wonderful CEO of South Tees FT Professor Tricia Hart).

But many of us in the NHS work locally, and it is therefore obvious that most of our contact and observation is to our local Trust Board.  I have beenMASSIVELY privilidged as a mere Band 5 staff nurse to perhaps have a little more contact and observation from afar of the BCH Trust Board than others (mainly through the wonderful participation I used to have on the BCH Flufighter Team).  So like Rev Dave - I want to write personally as a frontline nurse on what I have seen of the BCH Trust Board and the people who carry responsibility for the hospital.

One word about salaries - it is, I supppose obvious, that in the popular critical culture of media coverage of the NHS, that some spotlight is put on the salaries of Trust Boards.  This is guaranteed to raise my blood pressure and incense me beyond words.  Here's why.  A quick Google search through the Financial Times reveals that CEOs or Directors in the private sector earn ridiculously more than NHS Trust Boards.  How can you compare a salary of $4.1million (salary of the CEO of Barclays) even with the current salary of the CEO of NHS England?!  One CEO of course takes responsibility for the money passes through an organisation.  But NHS CEOs and Trust Directors take responsibility for HUMAN LIVES.  And they are paid far less for that responsibility.  I have said before - and again - I never resent them a penny, who can imagine the pressure they are under for running our hospitals?

So - the Trust Board of Birmingham Children's Hospital Foundation Trust (in similar vein to Rev Dave - let me tell you some stories):

Chairman Jo Davies: (I must add BCH have been ably cared for by acting-Chairman Keith while Chairman Jo was away and I understand they are looking for/interviewing a new Chairman).  But my first real contact with the pinnacle of our Trust was breathtaking in real humanity!  Chairman Jo was eager for her #flufighter jab, and I was invited to her office a few years back to give it.  I was on full, "political correctedness" mode but she breezily popped her shoulder out for me and presented, without fear!  Further contacts amazed me with her absolute fierce passion for the BEST care for the children and families coming through the hospital.  I can only imagine the tight rule she had over Trust Board meetings and the questions she would have (somewhat like HM the Queen to encumbent Prime Ministers?) if she wasn't content the best was being done!

But this amazing, force of nature could sweep through the hospital wearing the most amazing coats of a variety of velvet, gold and all manner of materials!  Presence was the word!  But this Chairman could sit happily with the children (most important in her eyes) and talk and laugh with them.  I have no doubt her successor will have to live upto her high standard!

Chief Executive Sarah-Jane Marsh:  Ah where to start with this absolutely amazing lady.  Like the Chairman, my first contact was through promoting the Trust "Flufighter" campaign.  I was amazed at the strong support from the CEO that came through persistently and positively.  Sarah-Jane always was interested in uptake results, and still is to this current day - the amaze current campaign is here!  Through that initial contact I became progressively vastly impressed with her committment to the absolute and best patient experience (this was pre-Francis) for the patients and families who came through BCH.  I seized many, many quotes from various CEO briefings I was fortunate enough to hear that I have never forgot such as;

"It's not just what we do - it is theWAY we do it that really matters".

A couple of times I heard from parents under my care who hadn't had the best experience and were upset about it.  It was without fear, and complete trust that I recommended they contact the CEO Sarah-Jane.  I would tell them of my brief contacts with her and suggested I felt she would care, and would seek to make changes.  One father in particular excitedly told me he had written a 6-page letter to Sarah-Jane!  I did have a brief moment of complete fear and anxiety wondering if my P45 would be in the post!  I was floored to be updated now and then that Sarah-Jane and our Chief Nurse Michelle (more later) had met the father and implemented REAL change from what they had learned.

One final unforgettable encounter with this amazing woman - I had the amazing opportunity to meet Sarah-Jane just before Christmas (related again to flu I think) and she asked me genuinely how my substantive work (then as a PICU staff nurse was going).  I related to her a very tragic account of being so privilidged to care for a family who were going through the tragedy of facing the withdrawal of care on their poorly child and palliative care for them.  I was stunned to see visible tears in her eyes as she connected instantly with the pain and anguish a family was going through who she had not met.  I have never forgot that.

Chief Nurse Michelle Mcloughlin:  The CEO Sarah-Jane quite rightly refers to Chief Michelle as; "a force of nature".  Patient Experience Lead Kath Evans refers to her; "Can do - will do" attitude!  This so accurately represents a role model in the most excellent, highest standard of patient care and experience delivery - I have been privilidged to meet.

Once again, my first real contact with Chief Michelle was through the contact of the "Flufighter" campaign in 2009.  I was amazed to find that Chief Michelle had expressed her wish to become an "Immunisation Champion" and join in immunising staff.  This was highly unusual around the time - typical NHS practice was to run campaigns via Occupational Health services.  Chief Michelle was key in spreading the positive message of flu vaccination to top consultants who previously may have avoided frontline immunisation nurses.

My later contact with Chief Michelle before leaving the Trust was focused around patient experience and in particular the importance of play therapy and input for our patients.  I again was Patient Experience Application" which has won several awards - and also the "Dignity Giving Suit" - which I think is the mostFANTASTIC innovation for giving dignity to young people ever!
amazed at her passionate focus on improving and exceeding everything in the Trust that could be affected and improved.  I caught that vision, loved it, and it remains with me to this day.  Like Sarah-Jane - the CEO - Chief Michelle has been one of the main hero impacts on my nursing career.  Since being away from the Trust, Chief Michelle has been influential and behind the "

Chief Medical Officer - Dr Vin Diwakar:  I have always have had something of a tremendous soft spot for expert clinicians.  This comes from, I think, my esteemed and expert uncle - Dr Andrew Long (Consultant Paediatrician at Great Ormond Street Hospital FT and head of the London School of Paediatrics as well as being on the Board of the Clinical Ethics Team).  Dr Vin has more than earned my tremendous respect and admiration again - all through the accounts of his patient experiences.

As a Paediatrician, Dr Vin Diwakar has cared for and built up a tremendous rapport with many of his patients, and I have heard that many of them have his personal phone number so they can seek support and help if they need it.  He manages to balance his Executive and clinical duties somehow (who knows how!?) and is seen frequently on ward rounds, but also of course at Board meetings promoting patient interest - and the vital role of safety in the Trust.  Just as per Chief Nurse Michelle, Vin strongly supports the Trust "Flufighter" campaign and was pictured this season with Chief Michelle being jabbed!

Chief Finance Officer - David Melbourne: - Non-clinical Directors often receive a less-than-high-profile.  They have no obvious cause to circulate among patients and are often seen to be hiding in offices.  David is not guilty on all counts!  He acted up as Chief Executive while Chief Sarah-Jane was off on maternity leave, but now is frequently seen around the Trust.  I have heard many accounts of his sheer generosity and giving attitude (in an atmosphere of austerity when the NHS should be counting every penny) if it benefits true patient experience.  Quite rightly and deservedly he won the austure "Finance Director of the Year" from HFMA in 2011.

I have no doubt he manages the finances of the Trust sensibly, carefully and accurately - but love accounts where he eagerly invests money if and when it directly benefits the patient experience at BCH.

There are of course, many other BCH Trust Board Directors who I do not have the privilidge to have encountered, but have no doubt (from reading the Trust Board minutes as I do monthly) that they daily defend the importance of nothing less but excellent patient care.  But like Rev Dave - I wanted to highlight the PEOPLE I have had the honour and privilidge of meeting who step up and take responsibility for the care of the precious and vulnerable children a
nd families who are daily cared for by BCH.  I haven't even had the time to talk about the Non-Executive Directors of BCH like Professor Jon Glaseby - who again I am positive carry out a vital role in the care of the children and families in BCH.

They are nothing less than true NHS heroes and want nothing but the best and most excellent care for the patients.  For that they should be saluted!  Of course there will be some "human" Trust Boards who do sadly fail the patients they are entrusted with (such as Mid Staffs) and they should rightly face the accountability of the Secretary of State and the Department of Health and indeed the nation if appropriate.  But until such errors are revealed and proved, Trust Boards across NHS England need our support and thanks as they seek to lead the NHS to do better - and better.  A never-ending journey for the good of our patients.

To end with Rev Dave's words;

"And OK, since you’re asking, (I can’t resist it) here would be my words: expert, professional, passionate, caring, engaging and visionary. But then my Mom always used the quote from Disney’s Bambi and tell me: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!”