We Are EEAST briefing 4th February 2021

We are EEAST briefing 4th February 2021 Marcus Bailey, Chief Operating Officer and John Syson, Director of Workforce.

First of all, a chance to reflect after thank you week. We spoke last week when myself and Tom were on, really about the opportunity, and we don’t often do it, which is to really appreciate the thanks that we have had from our colleagues, from friends and family, and also from each other, along with some of the celebrities who were able to share their thoughts.

We still think the Norwich City Goalkeeper Tim Krul was the biggest hits out of all of that, which was probably a surprise to a number of people, probably especially Ipswich town fans as well, but I won’t say any more about that, I need to stay apolitical during sessions like this as well!

But I think if you do step back, it’s really important, Covid is not over and we know that Covid is not over, but we have seen in the last two weeks reported nationally, just some of that pressure starting to ease very slightly. What we’ve seen for us as a Trust is we’ve seen that pressure move up from really the South of the patch around Essex, Hertfordshire, the London boarder, all the way up to Norfolk, and it’s really Norfolk that it’s pinching at the moment.

But what we’ve been able to do is that thank you, and that thank you very much from people outside of the NHS who’ve really taken the time. We also saw that last night as well from a resident within our patch, so in Bedfordshire, Captain Sir Tom Moore, who passed away. And you’ll see that the Trust and the NHS have recognised that, and we have had our Trust flags at half-mast. Really important because we have benefited, or we have the money to benefit from the work he has undertaken earlier in the year. We’ve got over £120,000 which we’re currently working through in terms of the wellbeing and support of yourselves, and that was one of the key asks when raising the money as well.

So, from our point of view I do thank you for that, and it’s really, really important for us to be able continue to reflect on that, and the reinforcement of how people view the NHS and how people feel within there as well.

The other bit I would just like to cover is the work around our vaccination programs. So, thank you for all of you who have had jab number one, so the first vaccine. We’re now working to plan the second vaccination which will start in March. We’re looking at trying to do that from week ten, rather than the twelve weeks as that gives us tolerance in terms of progressing with that. So, it will take us towards the end of March onwards for that second phase.

People can still get their first jab, it hasn’t closed, so I would ask you all to have a look, keep an eye out, keep asking and keep searching in order to get those vaccinations undertaken. A lot of the thought process behind all of those is really around trying to build both individual and also then what people may collectively refer to as you build herd immunity. i.e enough people have enough resistance or vaccination to it and response to it, and it allows to be able to continue and really, I guess, start to think about how we are emerging from the pandemic.

Additionally, we also need to think about what that will mean for us as an ambulance Trust, so atypically from the rest of health and social care, we never really stopped doing stuff, so it’s not very easy for us to turn things off and to say we are going to stop doing things. People always keep calling, and therefore that’s what we’re seeing. So, with that in mind, we now start to move towards what Easter and also Summer will be for us, before we move in to Winter. So, for me it’s a thank you for everything that people are doing, when we know we’re going to have to keep going as well.

The other bit I think is really important in terms of encouraging people to get the jab, is also from our BAME colleagues in the Trust as well. We are making good progress, but actually we can always do more on all of that. So we would absolutely ask our BAME colleagues if they are listening, and for people to have conversation, because actually it’s ok to have a chat and to talk about if other people have had the vaccine, to actually encourage that uptake as well. We know from the early figures, and the early thinking, particularly within, for me, relating to I guess the impact to BAME colleagues, it’s a really important group that we look to support and keep well. The idea behind all the vaccination effort is that it absolutely looks to keep people well, protect themselves, protect others, protect family and protect our patients as well.

We are probably just over the 75% mark, and I think that’s really important to say that we are doing well. But, actually, keep going with the vaccinations, they will be there, so thank you.

What I want to do now is bring in John, John’s got some areas he want’s to talk to you about, and I guess an update on our people and some of our progress areas that are important as well, so thank you, I’ll hand over to John.

Thank you very much Marcus and good afternoon everybody. Thank you very much for dialling in to this Q&A session. I think, with all respect, only an acute could be talking about next Winter when we’re still in this Winter, in terms of time scales. I do want to revisit very quickly just the final point Marcus was making around vaccinations, and particularly in ensuring that everybody in the Trust has the opportunity to get a vaccine, and that we make sure we cover all of our different staff groups.

There was a very interesting and informative webinar last night that I know a number of the Trust colleagues attended around ensuring that our BAME colleagues both have access to the vaccine, and that unfortunately we have been seeing across the entire country some misleading social media and other messages that are particularly targeting people of a BAME background or potentially people with very strong religious affiliations, trying to discourage them from taking the vaccine. So, that is something we will be looking at as an organisation, to see how we can counter some of those false and very unhelpful narratives around vaccinations.

So, moving on, hopefully everybody on this call will have see their pulse survey. So in addition the national staff survey that runs every November, the Trust has teamed up with Picker, who are the external organisation that run the national staff survey, to do a series of short pulse surveys. These run quarterly, last one was in August, the current one is out now and finishes on the 12th, so next Friday. It is a short survey, so it’s not too many questions long, but it is very much focused on some of the areas that as a Trust we are hoping to see improvements on in terms of our culture. And also, there is a very short module in there asking people for their reflections on how the pandemic has affected them and how the Trust as an organisation has both supported staff and dealt with the pandemic.

We have included that module again because sadly, as we know, the pandemic is still very much with us. We’re trying to get an understanding and take some learning from our response to that pandemic is really important. So, if you please have a check of your inboxes for a pulse survey from Pickers, it’s not too many questions, and we really encourage everyone on this call and your colleagues to fill that in.

Linked to that, we are shortly going to be getting the final feedback from our 2020, so October/November 2020, national staff survey. So, there are a whole bunch of rules around how we can share the data for the staff survey. So, a lot of it is embargoed, i.e we can’t share it in many forums until the end of February, but there are a few headlines that we can share, and that have come out from the staff survey.

The first one is actually we’ve seen an increase in response rate. So, many of you on the call will probably remember that in October/November we were also running our Trust harassment and we did put a lot of emphasis on making sure people were aware of that and had an opportunity to fill that in. So we didn’t really quite put as much emphasis on the national staff survey as we have done in previous years. Despite that, we did see an increase in response rates, nearly 50%, which is a little bit higher than it was last year, but quite significantly higher than it has been in previous years, which is very pleasing to see.

In terms of some of the key themes that come out through that, we are definitely seeing a degree of consistency both with what we saw in the CQC report and also in the harassment survey. Which, I think, indicates that people are willing to share their experiences and their views, which is really positive. And it’s another really good data source to triangulate with the other bits of information that we have to inform our cultural journey, and that’s another reason why the pulse survey is so important for people to fill in, because it gives us an indication as are some of the actions that we’re taking, are they having a positive effect, are they not having a positive effect, do we need to change what we are doing or are we on the right track.

So, some of the bits that will come out from the staff survey, and something that we are doing already, that came out very clearly from that, is we’ve set up a working group to have a look at how the Trust organises ourselves when it comes to acting up and secondment arrangements. So, that’s something that has come out through a number of sources, not least the staff survey, to say that there is a perception, and I’m sad to say, I think in cases a reality, that the processes that the Trust follows in terms of who goes in to secondments and acting up, how long those last, how they’re refreshed, don’t follow the processes that we would want to see and aren’t as dependent on appropriate processes and a meritocratic approach to selection as they should be.

So that is absolutely something that both the perception and some cases reality, something that we recognise. So we have been making a few procedural changes immediately around the process that it needs to go through and the length of secondments, but we are working with a variety of stakeholders including trade union collegues to make sure that the process that we have in the longer term is the right one, and it’s fair, it’s transparent, but it also does provide the opportunity both for individuals to go and get more different experience, which is really useful, but it also fulfils the organisation need that we sometimes have where we have to move people around at short notice because we have operational pressures that need to be covered. So that’s, I think just one example of some of the action that has been taken following the staff survey feedback.

In terms of some of the other points from the staff survey, normally what happens with the staff survey is we get the results, we ask each area to do an action plan, and they follow through on their action plan and then we try and review it and get some positive changes that way. I think what we’re looking at for this year is maybe a slightly different approach. The Trust has done a number of staff survey action plans over the last number of years, and I think the fact that we’ve had the CQC report that we’ve had, and we’ve had the feedback through the national staff survey, bullying and harassment survey, feedback from trade union colleagues, would indicate that we haven’t seen the changes that we would want to see through that approach. So, as we have a more longer term and holistic cultural change program going on at the moment, we will be looking to align the feedback that we’ve had from the staff survey to the actions that we are already doing, rather than duplicating an additional set of actions through that.

There will be more information coming out as we get it, because we haven’t quite had all the information back from Pickers yet, but we will be publicising some of the good and some of the bad from the staff survey shortly, and how that aligns to and how that supports the work that is getting done. So that’s what I want to say around staff survey.

In terms of some of the other things that are happening at the moment, we have been able to welcome a couple of new individuals into our wellbeing team in recent weeks. So, we’ve got some additional capacity in there, and we’re working very closely with our partner Kays in terms of the range of services they offer, and also to try and streamline and approve the electronic referral process that we’ve got there.

Also, another piece of work that we should have coming through shortly is to highlight in a much more hopefully user-friendly way, some of the external and internal sources of support that people can access. There are a huge variety of different internal and external sources of support, so much so that the guidance documentation was something like seventeen pages, so trying to distil that and make it really clear for people where the best sources of support, depending on their requirements are, is a piece of work going on, so do keep an eye out for that. And as we’re getting some more resource into that team we will be looking at refreshing and building on the wellbeing offering that the Trust has.

Finally, one of the things that came out from the CQC report was a requirement for the organisation to undertake a review of the capacity and capability of the workforce directorate. I’m very pleased to say that that work has started in earnest, so making sure that despite the extra capacity which it is fantastic that we have been able to bring in over recent months, to make sure that we have a robust appropriately resourced and appropriately skilled workforce directorate to support the organisation going forward.

It is really important, a lot of the cultural work and improvements that we want to see are underpinned by the support and being able to support line managers and staff in having the confidence and skills to be able to resolve issues when they arise, be able to contribute to people’s working environment and working lives and being able to, unfortunately when they do happen, try and find speedy and fair resolutions to workplace issues. So that work has started, it’s going to take a little while to work through all of our issues within EEAST, but I think it’s a really positive to be able to bring that external expertise there.

Published 8th February 2021