Ups and downs

Welcome to my latest blog. I hope you find it of interest. If not, don’t be afraid to tell me!

It’s been a very busy few weeks with a few ups and downs along the way, including a disastrous trip to London which I’ll tell you about later!  But for now, let’s start on a positive note and talk about our Annual Members Meeting which was held a few weeks ago. There were a few particular stand out highlights at this year’s meeting – one of which was listening to the personal and very powerful stories of Jack Wilson, Governor for Children and Young People’s Services and Lionel Joyce, a mental health pioneer and former Chief Executive of Newcastle Mental Health Services.  Both speakers spoke so candidly about their lives and experiences with mental ill health, including of local NHS services. This provided us all with a real insight as to what it’s like to walk in other people’s shoes.  Another great highlight was the showing of the Hope video developed by peer support workers and other staff. I found it deeply thought provoking and, I don’t mind admitting, personally a bit challenging.

At the end of July I attended a wonderful graduation ceremony to celebrate the remarkable journey and achievement of 11 Project Choice graduates, a scheme which offers young people with a learning difficulty and/or autism the opportunity to learn new skills in a real work environment.  It was a privilege to share in the emotion of listening to the stories, both from the students and their work mentors. It was so inspiring to hear about the next steps into education, training or work many of the graduates are making.

Now, back to my disastrous train journey to London…  I managed to get caught up in all sorts of chaos on trains when I attempted to get to London for a meeting.  On the way to London the train was very delayed, so I ended up missing the meeting that I’d been going there for!  Then, in my attempt to get home, I was thwarted by three sets of damaged train points which meant that only one track was open.  Trains were stacked up for as far as the eye could see (not literally but it definitely felt like it).  I was supposed to get back to Newcastle at 4.50pm and I actually arrived home at 2.45am the next day! So needless to say, I won’t be going back anytime soon unless it’s really unavoidable!

After the awful train trip I felt like I needed a holiday, and lucky for me I already had one booked!  My wife Julie and I both had an enjoyable break from the NHS when we went to Berlin for a week (Julie also works in the NHS).  We visited the Brandenburg Gate where the wall came down in 1989.  There were lots of memorials of life before unification and it was really interesting to see how a city split after World War Two has now been unified. Oh and, by the way, every train and tram arrived on time!

Whilst in a café in Berlin I had the most amazing experience and witnessed the heaviest and longest storm I’ve even seen. It was so heavy it was like someone was standing above you and pouring full buckets of water in front of your eyes.  For over an hour it rained so hard that you couldn’t see people in front of you and Julie and I watched the water quickly fill an empty latte glass on a table outside (sorry, I know it’s a bit of a weird memory to share but it really was amazing).

Back to matters NHS, I had a really enjoyable meeting with a doctor in training who is planning to apply for a consultant post.  I really hope he has applied as he was extraordinarily impressive and would be great for our service users and carers and teams.

Rajesh Nadkarni, our Medical Director and myself attended an Integrated Care Communities (ICCs)  event in Cumbria, where we met with GPs and other health and social care colleagues to consider how best to develop more joined up services at a locality level across the county.  It was clear that there is some really good stuff going on to join up primary care and community services in Cumbria. I’m looking forward to learning more and seeing how we can share good practice on integration across the new Trust.

At our last board meeting we discussed why we have decided to change the trust’s name and to call the new organisation Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.  We wanted to hold on to the NTW aspect of the name so we could build on our positive reputation and ‘branding’ as well as acknowledging our larger geographical area and welcoming the staff and services in Cumbria to the fold. It also ensures that our name remains alphabetical in order.

And finally, before I sign off, life in the Lawlor household is starting to get back to normal now that our black Labrador puppy (Finn) has at last started to calm down.  It’s been like living with a two year old toddler that is in to everything!  I’m pleased to report that he’s no longer eating my slippers, shoes or skirting boards – or trying to singlehandedly destroy the garden by digging to Australia! 

I hope you’ve managed to have a bit of time off work to recharge your batteries and prepare for the challenges ahead. The Trust continues to move forward and, despite the immense pressures I know some of you are having to deal with, I know together we can continue to do the very best we can for the people we are here to serve.

John