We Are EEAST Briefing 1st April 2021


This week's We Are EEAST Briefing comes from our Chief Operating Officer, Marcus Bailey.

First of all, and we start, and it’s literally no joke because it’s the 1st of April and it’s also gone passed midday so none of that really counts now, is a genuine thank you for last year. I’m sure when I blinked last time it was Christmas and before, I blinked and that was last summer as well, and it has genuinely gone so quickly for all of us.

When I’ve spoken on a couple of the other Exec Q&A’s, genuinely meaning a time for us to reflect and a time for us to think, and we had thank you week, and I can’t stress that enough, it takes every single person in this organisation to make it all happen, whether you are in a volunteer capacity or employed with us. It’s everybody who assists, every function, every department, everybody to look after our patients.

It’s also been a year to reflect on our journey as well, and some of the bits that we also look forward to from an organisational point of view, and you individually as well, in how the future starts to look for us in the East of England as an ambulance service as a collective, and as individuals. The Trust is made up of individuals, it’s not me, it’s not one other person, it’s all of us that make up this Trust and we need to have a think about that in how we are and where we move forward.

You get to see that particularly in the cultural work and the plans and the update of where we’re going, and some of the stuff that still comes out and we’re finding. The start of a new financial year doesn’t mean that we’ve stopped doing some of the stuff that we did last year, particularly on that cultural journey of listening to concerns.

I’ll start by saying when I say thank you, thank you also expands to those of you who are coming forward to speak. It’s really, really important because from our point of view the speaking out and speaking up, because people are feeling comfortable and braver, the opportunity and freedom to speak up is established and people are starting to have conversations.

People are still coming forward, so in terms of the amount of incidents and issues that we are dealing with, we are still dealing with a number of those, and that in itself is not a bad sign. What it means is from our point of view people are able to come forward. There is clearly a trade off within that, and the trade off is that we still have work to do, and we know that, and we know from the staff survey which was published and the findings that there is still work to do, and none of us would say that it is over by a long shot.

Special measures and the journey particularly around culture… we’re not talking fixes within weeks, we’re talking months and years. That’s actually ongoing, once you get to a cultural point it’s actually ongoing as well.

So, we sit here on a Thursday before the bank holiday, so I guess the bit I would just say is thank you to everyone who’s going to be working over the weekend, thank you to everyone who supported getting us ready for the weekend as well. We continue forward with our strong position and thank you for those of you who are supporting in extra capacities as well, it puts us in to a good position for the weekend.

We have already seen since Monday, we’ve seen some of that activity start to rise again. Lockdown or the social distancing in line with the government guidance is starting to reduce and people are being more free in terms of some of the meeting up and the opportunity to be able to progress forward and meeting families.

And this is when I talk about that reflection time, it is important for all of us in terms of where we’ve been on the journey, as well as everybody else in the general population. I think it is an important point then to just link in to being safe.

We’ve had a really, really good uptake of the first vaccination dose, over 95% of us have had that vaccine. That is really important, and it goes a long way by far in almost outstripping every ambulance trusts on that uptake. Second vaccines are well underway as well, but it is important for us to remember that as the government guidance and we progress to June, as we’ve had our second vaccine, in terms of the other measures, none of those measures change in terms of where we maintain social distancing, face coverings, appropriate level of PPE (level 2, level 3).

We are seeing some of those unintentional AGP breaches with regards to level 3 PPE. We also need to think about some of the guidance that was out but still remains. The reason I say that is that we know that there is an element of Covid fatigue when it comes to having lived with it for over a year, it was Covid-19 and we are now in 2021. It’s really important and the best thing that we can do, what we’ve seen works for us as a service, but also individuals protecting people, protecting our families, our friends and the community, is those other measures, so the hand washing, the social distancing, the not sharing of food, monitoring food, doing lateral flow testing.

Despite the vaccination program, and that’s a real step forward, none of those other measures can swap, they still need to be there as well. So, I’d really ask you and urge you to continue with those. We know that it can be difficult, we know that too, but please please stick with that and please please keep going, because actually this is one way for us to be able to make sure that we really do try to get the dip and the curves narrowed and flattened when it comes to Covid and Covid spikes that may come in terms of the releasing of the social distance element that sits there.

The other bit that technically came to an end the end of yesterday was those of our colleagues who were shielding. So, the guidance is for extremely clinically vulnerable people to end shielding. As with the approach we have taken throughout all of Covid, just because something is said, we then assess it, and we look at it. We’re not here to rapidly bring people or throw people straight back in to work. Some colleagues have been absent for a significant amount of time, which will be over a year now for some, and actually we need to be really sensitive, supportive and work through on a return-to-work plan which allows you to have an individual assessment to work forward. So, please don’t think that just because it’s technically the end that there is an absolute you must be back, we will be working through and you will have contact from the management team to work that through as well.

The other bit is I obviously do the plug for the second vaccine, we have it and it looks like our uptake so far of the second vaccine, which I thank you for because I know it’s about booking that in, is on par, if not slightly ahead of the first vaccine, i.e everyone is coming forward to get their second vaccine. Again, really important, because it’s the first and the second vaccine that work together in terms of giving us that protection to move forward.

Another important bit that is happening for us this week is the appointment and selection process for a new Trust Chief Executive. As you know, Tom still is and will remain as our Interim Chief Executive until we have somebody appointed and a confirmed start date. That process this week has involved stakeholder panels earlier in the week and interview processes, and therefore we are looking to be able to announce, subject to offering the successful postholder role acceptance, because I’m sure you can imagine that appointing a Chief Executive in any NHS requires a number of forms to be signed by other people external to the organisation. But from those point of view, we should be in a position, the Trust Chair should be in a position, to announce a new Chief Executive in April, which will be good from an organisational point of view as we enter this new financial year as well.

As part of the process, and I think this is really important, candidates had a chance to speak with staff, our stakeholders, myself and other Executive Directors and also Non-Executive Directors about where we think we are, where we think we need to go, the support that we need, that also involves some of our regulators as well in order to give that triangulating view. So really we are looking for someone who will absolutely support us in that moving forward, and on the journey that we have been making since the CQC report last year.

A couple of practical bits that we’ve done this time as well related to some of the feedback. So, you’ll see in Need to Know there’s been some information about some of the updated appraisal process, and that is based on a lot of feedback from yourselves in terms of how we really shape that into a more meaningful conversation, but also the ability to talk through, and I guess, document it. We’ve called it compassion conversations and the overwhelming feedback has been ‘can we just call it appraisals?’ where we have contacted people to talk about how we are, how we’re getting on, what that looks for us, and I think that is really important as well.

Please, as well, I’m going to keep talking until I see a question pop in the box so please use this opportunity for questions, please do so.

The other bit that has happened for us this week is that we have had our regulator meetings, so the ones that are associated with oversite and assurance for us being in special measures. It ties in with the end of a busy week with some of the sub-board committees and also discussions at Exec meetings around what does this year look like in terms of really, really building the foundations.

I think a lot of the work that was in the CQC report, a lot of the elements that came to light, these are about effective foundations and building a plan, and a strategic plan. People get lost in lots of words when we say strategic plan, because they become a bit too overthought sometimes, but it is just what are we going to do this year that’s going to make a difference, how do build proper foundations that will allow us to move forward, how do we support leaders, how do we support staff, how do we support volunteers, how do we help people be the best they can be.

Published 5th April 2021