Welcome from our Chair
In another year dominated by many ‘headline’ pressures on the health sector and given the remarkable response of our people, I would like to open this report with a message of gratitude. Thank you. I‘m incredibly proud of colleagues who worked tirelessly over the last year and continue to do so to ensure that we provide safe and compassionate care for our patients and communities.
Everyone’s flexibility and willingness to redeploy to areas, roles and tasks that were not familiar to them and their readiness to support each other and work together, in spite of their own personal worries and concerns, was second to none.
We couldn’t have achieved this without the support and kindness of the public. We saw a fantastic response from our local communities with organisations and individuals offering to assist us in many different ways. We received a wide range of cards, messages and donations, along with people offering their time to volunteer and support our colleagues.
The wellbeing of our people is an absolute priority for the Trust, no more so than over the past year. Our health and wellbeing team offered colleagues enhanced support, including an employee assistance programme, providing access to counselling, psychologists and mental health practitioners. We organised welfare wagons too providing snacks and drinks to crews who were waiting with patients at NHS locations across the region.
There have been several changes to EEAST’s leadership during the year. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dr Tom Davis for his tremendous energy, commitment and leadership during his time as acting chief executive.
I was delighted that Tom Abell joined us as chief executive in the summer of 2021, when we took another opportunity to listen to our people, to consider the events of the year and to think about the future direction of our Trust. We believe that by truly listening and working together we can make changes and improve the experience for colleagues, partners and patients.
We also welcomed a number of new director appointments to the executive team during the year. There’s still work to do. That’s why it’s so important we continue to take time for some deep reflection to make sure we take the right course of action and that the changes we make are meaningful and have a big impact for colleagues and patients.
We continued to focus on our journey of transformation allowing us to work collaboratively and effectively to deliver service improvement further and faster than previously thought. We continued to work with our regulators through the well led special measures regime and action plan to ensure the improvements needed are embedded, so patients and colleagues are safe and supported.
Our Fit for the Future improvement programme is a long-term improvement approach which was launched during the year. It focuses on four key areas: people development, demonstrating impact, system partnership and culture. The Board continues to have significant oversight of this programme of work. Improvements within these themes will have a major impact in the longer term across all parts of our service as they are the foundations for an organisation that provides outstanding care with exceptional people, every hour of every day.
As we look to the future, we do so knowing that we face significant challenges for the year ahead. Our colleagues have told us that they are extremely tired, physically and emotionally and yet the impact of COVID-19 and other unprecedented challenges has not diminished.
I thank fellow Board members on the Board for their advice, guidance and leadership which has been crucial in enabling the Trust to respond effectively over the last year. I would like to bring a number of aspects of our year to your attention.
We’re all committed to eliminating discrimination in all its forms across our Trust. As part of this ongoing commitment, we recently signed up to the new Anti-Racism Charter published by UNISON.
The Charter aims to tackle racism in the public sector and we were the first NHS Trust to sign up. It’s about recognising the impact racism can have on our people, having a real and visible anti-racism programme in place to improve equality, diversity and inclusion and building an organisation that’s representative of the communities that we serve. There’s also a focus on training, highlighting ethnicity pay gaps and ensuring fair process during formal proceedings, whether that’s applying for a job or a disciplinary process.
To further support change in this area we’ve launched our cultural ambassadors programme. The ambassadors received specific training to sit as part of investigation teams, members of decision-making panels for grievances and disciplinary hearings involving a BME colleague, or on recruitment interview panels for certain roles. The ambassadors play an important part in ensuring that all our people have a really positive experience of working here and are able to advance their careers.
I recognise that there’s more work for us to do across all protected characteristics, and this is a very important part of our wider approach to improving inclusivity across EEAST, for example we celebrated International Women’s Day, #BreakTheBias with a collaborative online event hosted by Essex Fire and Rescue Service, Essex Police, and the Crime Commissioner’s office for Essex and our own All Women in EEAST (AWE) network
All our apprenticeship pathways are supported under one roof, at West Suffolk College in Bury StEdmunds. We realised that by bringing the function together in one place would provide a much better experience for both learners and educators,
with teaching for all level 4 apprenticeships (in partnership with MediPro) and the Paramedic Degree Apprenticeship (in partnership with the University of Cumbria) all taking place on site.
I was pleased that fewer of our colleagues had experienced violence from the public, although one incident is still one too many and we are continuing to support the AACE #workwithoutfear campaign around this. Fewer colleagues reported experiencing bullying from managers or feeling under pressure to come into work when unwell. More colleagues also feel comfortable reporting unsafe clinical practice, which tells me that we are developing a culture which is becoming more open and where we learn from mistakes.
I’m pleased we have made some important steps forward developing strong networks and partnerships across our region, including the establishment of cohorting teams at several of our hospitals. This approach has also allowed us to support our patients further with Silver Frailty Network Hubs and started developing our co-response partnerships with fire and rescue services across the region.
An initiative was launched in Norwich to support colleagues taking care of their wellbeing. The Listening Project offered colleagues the chance to talk to trained Samaritans every week, providing a listening ear for both personal and professional concerns, any colleagues based in Norwich was welcomed to drop in.
As part of our work to reduce our carbon emissions, I’m pleased that we won a recent bid with NHS England to trial three electric rapid response vehicles and the associated charging infrastructure. This funding paid for two electric Skoda all-wheel drive cars, plus an electric Vauxhall van, their conversion to response vehicles and the introduction of 22kw chargers in Bedfordshire and Essex.
One vehicle was used as a ‘standard’ rapid response vehicle. The second was used in a similar role with our other blue-light partners (RAF, Fire and Police), initially in Bedfordshire, but later in Cambridgeshire, Norfolk and Essex. The Vauxhall electric van was trialled in various roles, including as a falls response vehicle and a mental health response vehicle.
This has been a very hard year for everyone. As we look forward, I want to thank our people and partners for their commitment, dedication and passion, demonstrating what we can do when we come together to serve our patients and communities.