Empowering our people: update from Robert Morton (22nd October)

Robert Morton with HART staff small

You are this service’s most valuable resource – quite simply our people are what make our ambulance service.

It’s only right then, that our new strategy should have a major section dedicated to you, our staff and volunteers. The strategy is currently being developed, but it will set out how we plan to address existing, new and emerging challenges that I know you, not as ‘staff’ but as ‘people’, are all facing every day.

We talked about some of that at our first Shaping the Future staff engagement day yesterday, and I want to thank everyone who attended and contributed to what was a very successful event, particularly Harri, Nigel, Lisa, Jill and Wendy. Some of the issues and topics that arose time and again were leadership and teamwork, career development, staff retention and managing demand.  This is unsurprising and reflects what many of you have already told me over my first three months here. So, how we address these issues will be set out in our overall strategy. I know ‘strategy’ just sounds like a corporate word, but it’s really important we have one that we can all buy in to – it’s the plan that sets out where we’re all going, what we’re wanting to change, and what we’re wanting to achieve.

The culture of the organisation has come up time and again since I joined as was reflected in our discussions yesterday.  We want to have a positive, can do attitude that everyone can buy into and one where people enjoy coming into work.   To help us challenge and change our culture, based on your feedback, we will likely be conducting a cultural audit. We are currently considering how it might be done in a way that would also inform our people theme of the strategy. Ultimately, the Trust Board will need to consider this approach which we hope to bring forward to the Board’s next meeting on the 26th November next.

In another area, I have been reviewing the executive leadership structure; there are points where we need to strengthen our focus and make sure we have the right governance in place to lead and steer us as one EEAST team. A number of our executive posts aren’t substantially filled at the moment or are filled on a part time basis, which clearly doesn’t give us long term stability. So, we’ve started the recruitment process for a permanent Director of Finance and Commissioning (looking at commissioning opportunities and increase our presence in the healthcare environment), Medical Director (working with the clinical directorate to improve what we do clinically for patients), Deputy Medical Director and Director of People and Culture (taking the lead in creating a positive and engaging culture where everyone feels valued and respected for what they do). These are roles that already exist in some shape or form, but it’s important that we get people in permanently as they are going to play a crucial role over the coming years. I will also be looking to see if there are any short term options to strengthen the team.

Lastly, one thing that did come up at our engagement event was health and wellbeing. We are lucky in that EEAST currently has a real wealth of resources devoted to staff wellbeing, like psychological services, peer support (TRiM), and the employee assistance programme, but there is much more that we can do.  We need to think about how we can use money spent on sick leave into money spent on running wellbeing programs that support you, encourage attendance and make this a better place to work. I mean it when I say that the health and wellbeing of our people, and their work/life balance, is genuinely important to us. I don’t think we’ve got that area of support quite right at the moment – but we will. To this end, we are going to trial an approach to incentivise attendance in one area over the winter period to see whether or not this new approach would be more productive and encouraging than our current systems.

With best wishes,


Published 22nd October, 2015

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