Leadership message from Chief Operating Officer Kevin Brown

I’d like to wish everyone a very merry Christmas and a happy new year. I hope you’ve been able to enjoy some time with those you care about and who care about you, whether you celebrate the season or not.

It’s a time for reflection and enjoyment, and I hope you’re able to do as much of that as you can over the next couple of weeks. Christmas is personal to many of us - I’ve been spending my time with a parent living with dementia, and a grown up son with some challenges following the loss of his mother when he was seven. These experiences makes this time of year hard for me. I’ve been heartened by the number of colleagues who have also shared personal stories of what this time of year means and it shows that whatever our role in the Trust, our reasons for being in the caring profession make our emergency service family all the more important. 

We have had the highest amount of staffing over the festive period that we have ever had. This morning, I was able to meet a number of our new recruitment team at Bedford who are working hard to help us get to the level we need to deliver our service. There is a real passion in the team. I have also met with the many staff who support in the background all year, and had a chance to wish them well in person and thank them for supporting us all. In the Ambulance Operations Centre the feeling was good with a great cheer, and a real feel of less pressure than this time a year ago. I was delighted to hear from the Patient Experience Team this morning that we have received a lot of compliments for the last few days for our service, which is great testament to #WeareEEAST. I also visited Kempston station which was great, and over the coming days I will be out and about across the region to see as many of you as I can and see some patients too. 

This year saw 3,109 calls on Christmas Day, 19 per cent less than 2017 when we received 3,843 calls. The AOCs then handled 3,662 calls on Boxing Day, a decrease of 14 per cent compared to last year’s 4,247. 

Our planning for this winter started during last winter, and our plans have supported patients and our staff well. We have a long way to go and the next couple of weeks will be busy across the whole NHS, so a continued thank you to everyone for the amazing efforts you go to. I was heartened to read about some exceptional work of a crew in Norfolk in saving a child and will be looking at how we can recognise this too. Our response to patients across all four categories has been exceptional -we have had some challenges with handover delays which have had very senior level intervention to help free you up for our patients over this period. 

I want to share with you some things that will be happening in the coming year. I know 2019 should be a pivotal year for us, marking exciting developments for you all and our patients. 

We have ordered 55 brand new vehicles, designed by our staff, for our staff and for the benefit of patients. This is the start of a new wave of concept vehicles and we have some national interest in our work. Polo shirts are now all year round wear; we will look to our own design as soon as we contractually can. The new coats are now out there and there has been some great feedback. 

Our new structure is now in place and we are working to fill all vacancies, which we’ve nearly done. We’ve been working very closely with LOMs at how to refine the role so that it can be fully supportive to everyone on the road. This will see the step change in compassionate conversation, engagement, leadership and support at the area level. This improvement and the many new roles together will ensure that collectively give better care. 

We are required to change our rostering to meet the needs of our patients. I know changing the rotas is hard and we thank you all for your continued engagement and support.  I have heard from many relief staff when travelling around just how hard their working life is; we will have some exciting news for staff coming in January that should help this situation. 

Specialist paramedics will play a vital role in giving quality care to our patients. The Ambulance Response Programme model we moved to in October 2017 is a very ambulance heavy model. This has provided a challenge for trusts like us that are forward thinking, clinically-focussed and want to be at the front edge of providing the best for our patients and staff.  We have lost too many of our best paramedics to primary care and we will respond to this by fixing a pathway that promotes staying with us as the provider of choice.  For those who have left and returned, welcome back. 

You’ll have heard everywhere that we’re recruiting many more staff, support roles, control room teams, patient transport services and our frontline staff. That’s our biggest responsibility to our patients this year, making sure we have the right amount of staff and support to treat those who need us, when they need us, in the way they need us. We want your help to bring people to our trust so please share the job roles you might spot on our social media feeds, and talk to people you know about life here in the ambulance service.  When we are running recruiting events at stations, please get involved. 

We must make some sustainable improvements in our response times. Response times are intrinsically linked to patient care and we know that through working smart, growing our workforce and truly caring about each other we can do this. 

The senior leaders of the Operations teams want to get out and about and hear from you much more this year.  We will now run our regular meetings at various locations across the region, so that you can come and see, hear and ask what is happening and give us your raw feedback. It is through this listening that we can really ensure that we get it right for you and our patients. The schedule will be published on Need to Know so you know where we’ll be, and can talk to us face to face. 

I want to close by making you an offer. I have worked many years on the front line, but not doing this everyday means I can still learn. I want to do a ‘day in your life for a day in mine’. What this means is I come and spend a day with you and in return you come and spend a day in mine. This is a great way to exchange learning and experience. It’s hopefully a fresh pair of eyes on both of our roles, so we can work together more closely in the future. Full details about this will be shared in the new year. 

I am expecting to fulfill a number of media interviews and see patients over the coming week or two. At every opportunity, I will say how proud I and we all are for what you do every day, whatever area of the Trust you work in.

Happy new year to you.

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