Joe Chadwick Bell is the Chief Executive of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust
I became the Chief Executive of East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust in September 2020, during one of the most challenging periods in NHS history.
Having been Chief Operating Officer at the Trust since 2016 and having led the Trust’s response to the first wave of the pandemic, I have seen first-hand the dedication, determination and drive of our 7000-strong ESHT team, working alongside other NHS, health and social care staff across Sussex.
I’ve seen our clinicians rapidly change the way they deliver care to keep patients safe. I’ve heard how digital colleagues worked through the night to install new technology and watched as people across the organisation embraced it and new ways of doing things. I’ve been in awe as members of staff put their hands up to be redeployed to care for Covid-19 patients, support our Emergency Departments and Critical Care Units.
I’ve been inspired by our community teams whose work with Adult Social Care has focused on keeping people well at home, helping to reduce the spread of the virus. And more recently I’ve experienced the dedication shown by everyone across Sussex to restore our services and keep them running as we face another rise in cases heading into winter.
Working together is one of our core Trust values and if we can take one good thing from our experience of Covid-19, it’s that the joint work and partnerships we have built and nurtured over the last few years have been strengthened and developed as we’ve all worked together during this extraordinary time.
In the past there have been occasions when our aim of working together has been stymied by organisational and geographical boundaries. The last few months has shown us that we can do whatever we put our mind to. Working in partnership, we have shared new ways of working and innovative ways of doing things – not just across the NHS, but jointly with social care, care homes, voluntary and third sector providers.
Over the last few years in East Sussex, working together with our local Adult Social Care Services and East Sussex Commissioners, we have developed areas of genuine collaboration. What I mean by that is that we’ve created genuinely integrated services where patients or service users are seen, seamlessly, by multidisciplinary health and social care teams who can support all of their health and care needs at the right time, in the right place.
In April our cross-Sussex partnership achieved integrated care system (ICS) status, and in East Sussex we are an Integrated Care Partnership (ICP). This means that the collaboration we established long before the pandemic, and that was so important in managing it, now has a structure that both supports and enables collaboration and joint working.
It’s easy to get lost amongst the acronyms which can hide the impact that effective partnerships can have on the people we care for. To give it some context, every day I hear examples from our community nurses and our joint community rehabilitation teams of patients whose lives have been made better by our collaborative approach to their care. It’s important to remember that this is why partnership is so vital.
Looking towards the challenges we will face over the next few years, these strengthened partnerships will mean that we can continually improve care, restore and recover NHS and social care services, address important public health challenges and manage the rising demand from our ageing population.
Partnerships will also be instrumental in our transformation plans here at ESHT. Through our exciting programme, Building for our Future, we want to rebuild or refurbish our three ageing hospitals, to create three state-of-the-art buildings that offer the best care and support innovation and research. We are also transforming services, for example we are improving the way we organise our outpatient services around a patient’s need to give them greater choice. Covid has meant that we are redoubling our efforts to make sure that patients only come into hospital when they absolutely. We are learning from other partners and embracing technology and innovation by investing in online health records, virtual reviews, video clinics, telephone consultations, patient initiated follow ups and one stop clinics.
Working together we will share knowledge, expertise and experience and take coordinated action in response to the big challenges for us and our local communities.
Covid-19 has held an important mirror up to the NHS and offered us the chance to view the important work that we do with fresh eyes. While we all hope that the news about an effective vaccine means that 2021 might see a return to some sort of normality for society, the reality for us in the NHS is that normality has changed forever. Together we are focussed on making sure it’s changed for the better.