Coping with time pressures whilst working amid an ever evolving complex society

On Thursday 16 May, I was accompanied by Lindsey Robertson, Care Group Director and Ruth Dalton, Head of Communications and Marketing as we visited wards 32 and 33 at University Hospital North Tees.

As ever, the discussions with colleagues were wide ranging – from summer uniform and cordless hoovers through to population health and partnership working with other trusts.

The insight that these few brief hours on the wards offer me as Chief Executive for this organisation are vast and plentiful. I am aware of how consistently hard working colleagues from across the Trust are. Our performance figures demonstrate an organsiation dedicated to delivering the best possible patient care for those communities we work within.

A reoccurring theme that crops up, no matter the department that we visit is time. We are working amid an ever evolving complex society, and I think that most organisations throughout the UK would identify time as something we all wish we had more of.

With complexities comes the need to respond and change to provide best possible outcomes for our patients. It was exceptionally pleasing to talk to colleagues on the wards about innovations that they use to ensure that this focus remains at the forefront. From employing rotation methods for staff on wards through to aspiring ward leader programmes – staff on both wards reported that they felt skills from within the teams were being employed.

Our Trust benefits from a diverse workforce, and a dedication to continued improvement for all, shared knowledge is really evident and a culture of learning is really pleasing to see.

As with all of my ward walk arounds, I am looking to hear about improvements we can make. It is our aim to ensure that voices are heard, and suggestions acted upon where feasible. Our executive team can enable some of these ideas, but many can be owned by you. North Tees and Hartlepool has always encouraged autonomy. For example, if staff want to link with other Trusts to create a forum for information and best practice sharing, I would actively encourage we make those approaches.

As we work to collaborate with more partners outside of our hospitals, the partnerships we make at grass roots are pivotal for the patient care of tomorrow. Our focus must remain on positive population health outcomes for all across the Tees Valley and surrounding areas. This cannot be delivered in isolation, so active engagement with colleagues from neighbouring organisations are now not aspirational, they are essential.

Walking further through the wards, we spoke to colleagues about morale – how was it? Staffing levels were on the whole more than satisfactory and those we spoke with talked of a winter less cumbersome than the last. This was owing in part to a milder climate, but also to provisions all of our teams made to ensure we were as ready as we possibly could be for the inevitable surge that comes with such pressures. Of course there is always more work to be done and we must continue to build and focus on becoming even more robust in times of pressure.

With absolute respect, we had the opportunity to speak with some of our patients on the wards. As one of our colleagues reminded us ‘there is always a person behind the patient’. An ethos I think all at North Tees and Hartlepool subscribe to. We smiled when one patient told us she would consider booking a holiday at the ward and the food was outstanding.

With recent announcements of potential ward ratings for hospitals, I think by our current standards our Trip Advisor ratings would be rather impressive.

Patients remarked that although staff were evidently busy, they still found time to deliver their care with compassion and respect. This brings us right back to the issue of time, balancing the good days and the bad. We all appreciate the pressures around our organisation and the desire to consistently deliver excellence as our standard. In spite of the demands working in health care can bring, ours is a ‘can do’ workforce with an absolute willingness to create change for the benefit of those that matter most, our patients.

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