Welcome to my new blog!

John Lawlor

Chief Executive, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog where I’ll be sharing messages every two weeks.

I recently read a ‘blog’ if you know me, you’ll know that that means I’m finally being pulled kicking and screaming, into the 21st century!!  That said, it did inspire me to communicate, engage, link with, and talk to people in a new way as well as face-to-face.  As a Chief Executive in the NHS, one of the biggest challenges is ensuring that people feel empowered, whether in their jobs working for the NHS, or as a service user, patient, carer or partner.  And actually one person, no matter who they are or what their position, cannot achieve this…..we all have a part to play.  So here goes.

Here at NTW, one of the areas of focus at the minute is the transfer of mental health and disability services from Cumbria Partnerships NHS Foundation Trust into NTW.  Over the past few weeks I’ve spent some time in Cumbria, along with many more of my colleagues, meeting staff ahead of the transfer of services on 1st October 2019.  What was really clear, and humbling, was to see first-hand the commitment of staff in providing compassionate and responsive care to service users.  NTW and Cumbria have worked in partnership for some time now and it really is an example of how working together with a common goal, can inspire people to be the best they can be, despite the challenges in front of them.

It’s with complete sincerity that I recognise that any service transfer can be a particularly worrying time for everyone, but not least for those staff affected by the transfer.  We, at NTW, will do everything we can to support staff, service users and carers over the next six months and beyond and I’m looking forward to working with the teams in Cumbria and welcoming them to the Trust.  We are holding staff and stakeholder events where we can have the opportunity to meet in person, where I can tell Colleagues about NTW, our services, our vision and our approach to supporting staff to achieve their aspirations.    

One of the downsides of being a Chief Executive in one of the largest mental health and disability Trust’s in the country is that I can’t be everywhere at once….despite how much I want to be!!  So one of the most rewarding aspects of my role is when I visit our services and remind myself of what it must be like to be on the front line.  It makes me reflect on not only all of the different roles and skills which come together to make a service work, but also the characteristics like respect,  compassion, openness which makes the NHS ‘tick’.  Lately I’ve visited both the Community Treatment Team, South of Tyne and the Community Team in Ashington.  It was a great opportunity to be able to spend time with staff and hear about what is going well, but also to hear about their challenges.  As I said, I’m keen to get out to our services, so if you would like me to visit anywhere specific, let me know and I’ll make every effort to get there.

Speaking of respect, compassion and openness, it’s not only something which our front line staff and managers should aspire too.  We as a Board also need to reflect on our own values and last month we held a Board of Directors Away Day at which we had a thought provoking workshop about empathy, facilitated by Carolyn Cleveland, using her own lived experience.  She took us on a journey of empathy and emotional awareness and the importance of these within and across organisations, when things go wrong.  The session was particularly powerful for me personally, listening to her articulate so well her own emotions and feelings about her past contact with the NHS.

I recently attended a fantastic leadership event for young people with a learning disability, autism or both.  The programme was excellent with lots of presentations from a wide range of participants and I have agreed to provide coaching support to one of the groups of young people.  There was a standout presentation from a lady named Katie who has a national role with NHS England and has Down ’s syndrome.  She explained that often people with a learning disability feel like they have things ‘done to’ rather than being ‘enabled to.’  By listening to the real human stories like Katie’s, it gives us a rare and important insight into walking in another person’s shoes and to learn important lessons.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog (I’ll also be tweeting too @johnlawlorNTW) and I hope you enjoyed learning more about what I’ve been up to.  If there is anything in particular you’d like to ask me about included here please do let me know – you can do this by dropping the communications team a quick email at communications@ntw.nhs.uk