A tough start to 2022 - Leadership blog February 2022

In this month’s leadership blog, our Chief Executive Dr Sara Munro talks about some personal and organisational challenges at the start of the year as well as details of work underway in our community mental health services

Dr Sara Munro


Welcome to my first blog of 2022. January was a tough month for many – including me, which is why I’ve been a bit quiet.

Last month my amazing mum passed away from a rare form of stomach cancer aged just 66. She had worked for the NHS for 39 years and is the reason I went into nursing. When I was 18 I vividly remember asking her about her job and why she loved it. At the time she was an auxiliary nurse in elderly medical care at the Ladywell Hospital in Salford. Her answer that day inspired me to become a nurse, and I’ve never looked back.

She continued to be a fantastic mentor and sounding board throughout my career as well as the best mum and friend. Given all the recent pressures on the NHS and a lot of negative media coverage I can honestly say my mum received the most outstanding person-centred care from her GP, local hospital trust, cancer specialists and the hospice in Salford. Nothing was ever too much including the support they gave to me and my family.

I have also had the most amazing support from the Trust Board, Executive Team and colleagues across the Trust. Many sharing their own experiences of coping with loss and grief and as I said in my all staff Zoom earlier this month – to be on the receiving end of our values has been humbling. Thank you.

In amongst all this what has been powerful is the reminder of how far reaching the impact health and care professionals in the lives of others – and that includes all of you – who I know have continued to work so hard under the most intense pressure over the past few months.  I am both pleased and relieved we are starting to see some light coming through now both in the real sense of days getting longer but also thanks to team work across the Trust we have now stood down from being in business continuity.

Trust out of organisational business continuity – but some service level pressures remain

We formally declared an organisational Business Continuity Incident on 4 January 2022. This meant we were struggling to staff our services to a minimum safe level without additional support, and the increasing level of Covid outbreaks was affecting our ability to accept admissions and respond to patients as quickly as we would want to.

Through late December and throughout January I’ve been so impressed at how our staff have pulled together to maintain safe services and keep our show on the road.

This was articulated by our Head of Acute Service Maureen Cushley, who gave an illustration of the impact of the Covid-fuelled winter surge and pressures in her Operational Delivery Group report – shared at Trust Board on 27 January (see page 65).

We’ve had to redeploy staff from community and specialist services into our acute, inpatient and crisis services again. This is something we really didn’t want to and is always a last resort to as we know how hard it is. I must say a huge thank you to all those who’ve gone to work in different teams. We received a lovely comment from Gill Galea from our Specialised Supported Living Service who help severely disabled people live independently.

Gill Galea

Last week at our internal Gold command meeting we took the decision to move out of organisational business continuity. Despite ongoing staffing pressures, the impact of Covid-related disruption has improved and stabilised for many of our services.

This means that staff who have been redeployed in response to the pressures, resulting from Covid related absence, should start returning to their normal roles this week (21 Feb).

In spite of the pandemic relaxations taking place in wider society, social distancing and infection control measures still remain very much in place across the Trust to protect each other and our service users. The national guidance for health and care settings remains robust – set out on the government website here.

Whilst we are not in Trust business continuity that does not mean the demand on services isn’t high and therefore staff continue to work incredibly hard to support one another day to day.  Our adult community mental health services continue to work in business continuity because of significant staffing challenges and we’re providing additional support to improve their position as quickly as possible.

Every one of our staff continues to work above and beyond to support our service users, partners and each other. I am so proud of the commitment, dedication and hard work we show at #TeamLYPFT to support the people who need our help continue to be outstanding, despite the relentless challenges faced in this latest surge of Covid and its ongoing and lasting effects.

I had managed to get some visits back in before Christmas to get to and about to see teams so I can say thank you in person. In the next couple of weeks I will be back out again with many visits already lined up including to our services in York and our regional services. I also always love an invite as do all the executive team and Board members so if there is anything in your team you have planned we can join do get in touch.

Gimme a boost

Our Vaccination Team and those supporting them should be very proud, with 82% of staff receiving their booster vaccine since we started the programme in the autumn last year.

They’ve also been central to city-wide efforts across Leeds, working in partnership with other providers to ensure that over 76% of people on the Serious Mental Illness (SMI) register and over 85% of people on the learning disability register have been vaccinated.

Booster jabs offer high levels of protection against serious illness, particularly the now-prevalent ‘omicron variant’ – and our Vaccination Team remain open and available to give first, second and booster jabs to staff, service users and partner organisation staff who want them.

A quick note about ‘Vaccination as a condition of employment (VCOD)’

For those staff who’ve chosen not to get vaccinated, and their managers and colleagues, the last few months have been very difficult. As a Trust we’d been following the national directive to ensure all staff in scope of the legislation were double jabbed by 1 April 2022. This was paused on 31 January and there has since been a short consultation on whether to continue with it or not.

There was a lot of guidance being issued at different times and our HR colleagues worked so hard to make sense of it and share what we knew with you all as soon as we could.

However, I just wanted to acknowledge how hard this has been – for some a very difficult decision to be faced with and it has generated lots of different emotions and views.  It has never been our intention for anyone who hasn’t had the vaccine to not feel valued or supported so I am sorry if that hasn’t come across more clearly.

We await the outcome of the government’s consultation on what the next steps will be, and we will share this as soon as we have it. In the meantime do continue to seek support from your line manager and if you have any queries or concerns contact our HR team.

Transforming Leeds’ community mental health services

The Community Mental Health Transformation Programme has been going on in Leeds for around a year now. Led by LYPFT and Leeds Clinical Commissioning Group it aims to transform how primary and community mental health services are currently organised and delivered so people can:

access care, treatment and support as early as possible

live as well as possible in their communities

This is so important not least because we know our community teams are already faced with significant and increasing demand and I know our colleagues that work in the service already want to be able to spend more time with people and their families making a difference to their lives.

The first phase will see the programme team working with three Local Care Partnerships to develop and test new forms of care and support for people.   Essentially piloting new approaches to see what works best for everyone.

This is a huge programme of work and I encourage all those who’ve got an interest in improving community mental health services in the city to get involved.

To stay in touch with developments on this programme, check out the How community mental health is being transformed in Leeds website, or email the project team on cmhtransformation.lypft@nhs.net.

And speaking of community mental health services . . .

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) recently published results of their latest service users survey conducted in the autumn of 2021.

Each year the CQC asks our service users for their views about the support and care they receive from our Community Mental Health Teams. 323 service users completed the survey and the majority of our scores sit in the intermediate 60% of the 50 Trusts surveyed. We had six scores in the top 20% range and three scores in the bottom 20% range.

It was encouraging to see that 82% of service users that knew who to contact if they had a concern felt that this person organised their care well.

There are also a number of areas for improvement, for example with only 23% of people saying they had been asked to give their views about the quality of their care in the last 12 months, and 46.2% saying they were provided with support for their physical health needs.

Given that the survey was carried out whilst services were affected by the pandemic, it’s likely that this had some impact on the results. However, colleagues are currently refreshing their community services strategic plans and the information from this survey will be used to help us think about how we improve our services for the future.

Read more about it and find the full report on our website.

And finally…

I do hope you have found this blog useful and please do if you can join the monthly all staff zooms. If you have anything you want me to share or shout out it is always a pleasure to do so. If you have any feedback on what we can be doing differently again it is always greatly appreciated.

Thanks again for all that you do, and for all your support to me over the past few months. I am really looking forward to getting back out and about across the Trust seeing more of you in person over the next couple of months.

Find out more about Sara on our website.
Follow her on Twitter at @munro_sara