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Happy New Year – a time for celebrations and heroes

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I hope everyone connected with the Countess had a great Christmas and I would like to wish all of you a happy new year. This is a time for setting targets and plans for the next 12 months, both personally and professionally, and reflecting on the events of 2016 can help us to drive those ambitions.

Most of the articles you might read this week looking back at 2016 will talk about political uncertainty on both sides of the Atlantic and an unusually long list of celebrity deaths during a year many may want to forget. It has certainly been a testing time for the NHS, with the period of junior doctors’ industrial action and the tough financial climate continuing to set new challenges. Despite this, I believe all of us can be very proud of both what the Trust has achieved in 2016 and the building blocks that have been put in place for further improvements in 2017.

In the last week before Christmas I walked around the hospital as part of the Executive Team’s annual chocolate run to say thank you to the staff. It’s just a small token of our appreciation for all the hard work you put in throughout the year and I know it’s something all of us really enjoy doing. I’m always struck by the sea of smiles and strong sense of community that greets me in all corners of our brilliant hospital – of course, handing out free chocolate helps!

This was a key message reflected in the results of our CQC inspection at the start of 2016. It was stressful spending a week under the microscope of the inspectors, but it gave us our chance to shine. Not only was the Trust rated good overall, areas such as stroke services and theatre safety briefings were highlighted for outstanding practice. Comments made by the Chief Inspector of Hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards were particularly pleasing: “There was a very positive culture throughout the trust. Staff felt well supported, able to raise concerns and develop professionally. Staff were proud of their services and proud of the Trust.”

In May I was delighted to host our first preceptorship programme ceremony, congratulating the first batch of newly qualified nurses to complete the scheme which provides additional support and guidance as they start their careers at the Countess. It was great to see their enthusiasm and just how much they valued the scheme. Their commitment to professional development and our dedication to facilitating it sums up what the Countess is all about because that in turn creates the best possible environment for our patients.

I’m never surprised but always pleased to see when some of our teams then take it upon themselves to go the extra mile for our patients.

Renal dialysis nurse Nicola Lee literally put this into action by running a half marathon in memory of one of her patients at the start of the summer, while the speech and language therapists followed a puree diet for a whole week with the support of catering to raise funds for new equipment. Special mentions have to go to the dietitians, who worked tirelessly to introduce pictorial menus across the Trust, and the team working on the Intermediate Care Unit which will continue to make a huge difference in 2017.

The staff at Ellesmere Port Hospital can also be especially proud for driving through the introduction of Kate’s Corner, a new next-step home facility located on the Bluebell Unit. This area was made permanent and named after a patient’s family who used it to prove they could care for their loved one at home.

This year our maternity services also signed up to the Royal College of Midwives’ Caring for you Charter, which is a commitment to improving the health, safety and wellbeing at work for midwives, student midwives and maternity support workers.

As part of the Model Hospital project the introduction of electronic rostering is making a difference to spending on bank and agency staff, as well as freeing up more time for patient care. It’s been rewarding to see how all the ward managers have really embraced it and in 2017 we will be looking to implement it in non-ward based clinical teams.

A personal highlight of my year was being given just a few hours’ notice to race to Media City in Manchester, have a quick costume change and get ready for my close up on BBC North West Tonight! I went along to the studio with Miles Negus to share his story as part of our winter flu campaign. We can’t thank him enough for all of his help to raise awareness and of course for all of our staff who responded so well with 3,092 having flu jabs.

Sir Duncan Nichol, our Chairman, Sue Hodkinson, Director of People & Organisational Development and I also carried out the regular monthly walkabout around the Trust on New Year’s Day (with Sue also visiting Ellesmere Port Hospital). Operationally it was a very busy day but as always we were greeted with enthusiastic staff committed to ensuring the best care was provided to our patients.

As we prepare for a new year, with new challenges, it’s important that we remember these moments of excellence and strive to replicate them. The examples above are just a few of so many that I could have mentioned. We are inundated with positive patient feedback and that is a credit to each and every member of staff at the hospital. A tub of Heroes or Celebrations chocolates is not only a simple thank you gesture during the festive period, it’s also a hugely symbolic one. I know from a nursing and midwifery perspective, it will be another busy year with lots planned and existing work to be embedded but thank you again for all your efforts wherever you work and let’s keep going in 2017.

With best wishes, Alison Kelly – Director of Nursing and Quality  

About the Author

Director of Nursing and Quality at the Countess of Chester.

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