Dark clouds, silver linings

It’s been a strange summer to date and there’s been plenty of dark clouds circling, yet despite this I can see rays of light.

For some people this could easily be a summer of gloom. We’ve had to contend with poor football results, political turmoil and, as ever, a British summer that threatens to arrive but never does. And for those in the NHS and the wider public sector there’s plenty of talk about really challenging times ahead. But I still feel that there’s room for optimism.

So let’s start with the elephant in the room which has been acknowledged by both those working in health and care and external commentators. We’ve got rising health problems, an ageing population and tighter budgets all at a time when we need to save money. Then there’s further uncertainty about what the actual budget deficit will look like nationally and what this means at a local level.

And there’s yet more gloom. How are we going to ensure we have sustainability within our providers who are facing real and well documented challenges? What will the future commissioning landscape look like and who will be in charge?

Then there’s the impact on the workforce, there’s a risk of burnout in general practice due to increasing workloads and in some areas we’re now seeing more locum staff than permanent ones. We mustn’t forget in all this that we work closely with Leeds City Council which, like any other local authority, is having to make reductions in services.

So you’ve got the picture, there’s storm clouds gathering. Yet in among all this we’ve got reasons to believe we can still achieve against this backdrop. Firstly it’s because staff in the public sector are resilient and we’re ready to make tough decisions but ones that are carefully thought through.

The scale of the challenge we’re facing is the biggest I’ve known in my career within the NHS. However what I’ve also noticed is that we have much stronger partnerships in place locally then we’ve ever done before. For example, our primary care co-commissioning committee is chaired by Philip Lewer. Philip’s day job (I hope he doesn’t mind me saying) is as Chair for NHS Leeds South and East CCG. This is great for relationships and even better for planning effective primary care services across the city.

I’ve been really impressed with the transformation we’ve seen at Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust. The Trust has adopted something called the Leeds Way which has seen services being redesigned and the results are positive. This is great for patients and great for staff.

Last week we held our annual conference for practice nurses and they looked at how they can be at the forefront of reducing variations in care. This means that every patient should expect the same level of quality of care regardless of where they live and which service they’re accessing. This is an example of how we’re looking for leadership qualities from all staff at all levels whether they’re on the frontline or in office-based roles.

I’ve mentioned about the importance of partnership working in a number of my blogs. I’m pleased to see progress being made on the West Yorkshire Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) as well as the Leeds STP. I’ll provide a full update on the STP in a future blog as we’re still working on this.

The Leeds Health and Wellbeing Board has now signed off the Leeds Health and Wellbeing Strategy 2016-2021. I’d like to thank all of those who helped shape this including those who fed back their thoughts on our proposals. The joint strategy will help us with our plans. Talking of our plans we recently held a Governing Body workshop where we looked at our strategic objectives in light of our revised strategy which we’ll unveil in August.

On a personal level I recently attended the board of trustees meeting for the Foundation of Nursing Studies (FONS). One of our key topics was the role of nursing within mental health. The chair of FONS, Emeritus Professor Tony Butterworth CBE has written a blog on this ‘Mental health nurses– working with purpose in primary care?’ As a registered nurse I know we have a key role to play in tackling some of the inequalities we see between the care provided for people with physical conditions compared to those with mental ill health. I really hope that nursing colleagues can fly the flag for the profession and show how we can improve the lives of those with mental ill health.

I’ve also recently been appointed to the position of specialist advisor for the Care Quality Commission. By taking on this role I hope to add value from my experiences so that we can improve the quality of care experienced by people in Leeds.

Finally, summer holiday season is upon us and I’m really looking forward to a two week break in Italy. The first week will be spent in Tuscany where I’ll try to fit in a few cycle rides. The second week will see the whole family get together as we make our way to Lake Como. I’m looking forward to two weeks of reading, resting and plenty of pasta!

Before I sign off I started my blog by talking about poor football results, although I must confess I’m not an avid fan of the sport. However if you’re a fan of the Portugal team (or you happen to have got them in your office sweepstake) – I’d like to extend my congratulations to you. For all others we have a new season upon us soon.  Further doom and gloom for some I’m sure but glimmers of hope for others….


Philomena Corrigan is the Chief Executive for NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group