A very happy birthday
Birthdays should always be special. Whether a significant milestone or not, they are a chance to celebrate, remember, reflect and to look forward. This month we celebrated the birth and 70 years of arguably this country’s greatest invention and asset: the National Health Service.
To celebrate this very important birthday, July was filled with cake baking celebrations and teas, thank you services, dinners, parties and lectures. I was lucky enough to attend two celebratory events. The first was the formal and incredibly uplifting service of thanks at Westminster Abbey. I was joined by Flossie Donovan, senior play specialist at the Richard Desmond Children’s Eye Centre (RDCEC), and Angela Smith, chief executive, Friends of Moorfields. It was a wonderful occasion and it made me incredibly proud to represent Moorfields. We heard from senior leaders, political and non-political, about the importance of the NHS and, as importantly, from clinical and non-clinical staff, past and present, who have devoted their lives to help deliver expert care across the UK.
The second event I was really pleased to join was the Moorfields Eye Charity ‘Great Moorfields Bake Off’ at the RDCEC. We were very fortunate to be supported by chef Michel Roux Jr, a former Moorfields patient, who hot-footed his way back from serving lunch at the Wimbledon Tennis Championship to support us and judge the quality of cakes made by our very nervous panel of Moorfields bakers. The event was made even more special by the arrival of Chris Pointon who, for many years, campaigned with his late wife Dr Kate Granger to improve the dignity and respect patients receive during their care through the ‘Hello my name is....’ campaign. Chris spoke very passionately to me about what the NHS means to him and what it meant to Kate, and how proud he was that their work was now endorsed across many hospitals in the NHS, including of course Moorfields.
Moorfields featured a great deal on its own merit during the NHS birthday celebrations. We are very much regarded as a special part of the NHS, something recently reaffirmed to me by a senior politician at the Westminster Abbey service. The BBC documentary ‘How the NHS changed our world’, developed as part of the 70th birthday celebrations, reinforced the incredible importance of our history, and also how exciting our future is. I received many letters and emails from patients and partner organisations congratulating the trust on the work highlighted in the programme and the unfaltering dedication, innovation and caring nature and focus of our staff. Thank you all.
Mum and dad
During September Moorfields was visited by Sir Andrew Morris. As well as being recently announced as a new member of the NHS Improvement board, Sir Andrew has a track record as one of the NHS’s most well-known and long serving chief executive officers (CEOs). With the average tenure of most CEOs in hospitals now sitting at around two years, Andrew’s 29 years as CEO at Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust demonstrates his skill, ability, and very importantly, his commitment to the long term journey of healthcare improvement.
Andrew came to talk to a group of us about the current and future NHS commissioning and provider landscape. Alongside the technical issues around funding and strategy we talked a lot about culture. He said that in his experience a positive organisational culture is the most important factor, bar none, of any successful organisation. When I asked him how you create a positive culture, he said that the secret is to keep the approach very simple: treat everyone like you would your mum and dad.
He went on to say that in his experience, creating a culture where everyone was treated with the same level of respect, regardless of their professional group or role, allows people to speak up and lead. Importantly it also allows innovation to flourish in a happy, responsive and positive working environment. We reflected on his comment a lot in the meeting and I have given it a lot of thought since. I think it’s a very positive, practical and simple approach and the more I think about it the more I understand what he meant.
Ensuring Moorfields is a happy, respectful and positive environment is one of my key personal objectives. The rationale is simple: happy and respected staff help deliver positive patient experiences. To help with this, over the past year we have developed a number of new ways to ensure we hear our staff. First and foremost, we have strengthened our managerial training and commitment to listening when managing. We have also recently restructured our ‘freedom to speak up’ process.
We have appointed new freedom to speak up guardians. These guardians come from across the Moorfields network of sites and represent a cross section of professional groups. They have been formally trained to listen, guide and support you, should staff need it.
It is clear to me, through the staff survey and the emails and comments I receive when walking about, that Moorfields is generally a very positive and happy environment in which to work. It’s this positivity that allows us to deliver such exceptionally high levels of care. This was perfectly illustrated in August when I received five letters in five days from patients writing to me about the wonderful quality of care they received in our A&E department. These weren’t brief notes, they were pages of praise for teams and individuals who looked after people during their most vulnerable of times. Very few things have brought me greater pleasure during my time at Moorfields than sharing some of those comments directly with the staff.