The Spirit of our Trust - a goodbye blog from our Chair
Our outgoing Chair Dr Sue Proctor has sadly reached the end of her six year term. Sue looks back on her time at the Trust in her final blog and sums up the spirit of LYPFT - taking some inspiration from a punk rock legend!
The last six years have flown by and sadly, this is my final blog as Chair.
So much has happened in that time; changes within the Trust; the introduction of yet more new NHS structures and systems; and of course, a pandemic which will leave a legacy for us all for many years. There is simply too much to fit in to a blog like this. So, what I’d like to do is offer some brief reflections on this Trust, and what I’ve learned.
We are rightly proud of our values – integrity, caring and simplicity. Far more than nice words printed on a lanyard or letterhead, they form a core for all we do. They are reflected in recruitment processes, appraisal reviews, board papers, and are central to the LYPFT way of doing things. Thinking about these values, made me also reflect on our character as an organisation, our spirit, if you like. What we stand for, who we are.
We are about to start a process of refresh and update of our strategy and part of this will be to think about our values. Are they still right for us, given the changes over recent years? Do they say enough about the care and services we offer here, our ambition for our service users, our commitment to our partners? In short, I think they do, but also, there are three other qualities that I would argue build on these values and define what being part of this organisation means.
Again and again, I have observed, experienced and taken part in work where three additional qualities are demonstrated in abundance. For me, these go some way to describing the spirit of LYPFT and why it is such a rewarding, sometimes challenging, but always fascinating place to work:
- Partnering, and
Let me expand on these. Each one of these qualities is driven by a passion to do the right thing for service users and families, and to tackle inequalities and provide the best care and support.
From my first days, visiting staff in our services across Leeds and York, people were candid in describing what they were proud of, what frustrated them, and in suggesting or arguing for change. Conversations, sometimes inspiring, sometimes challenging, were and are commonplace.
Each Board and Council of Governor meeting starts with a session on services, from staff, users, carers, or all three. These set the tone for the Board discussions and have been even more important in the last two years as Covid restrictions have prevented face to face service visits. In 1-1 meetings, on Zoom and Teams, in corridor conversations, chats at events, all over the place, there is a genuine desire to engage. This goes hand in hand with an expectation that something will be done in response. And followed up to check too. Fair enough.
A commitment to keeping it real, speaking ‘truth to power’ is essential in a functioning organisation. It starts with the Board being accessible, approachable, listening and acting in response to the matters raised. I hope I have fulfilled this expectation, along with Sara and the rest of the Board.
Being authentic sometimes means going off message and taking a different perspective. This can generate new insights and revelations. One example that sticks in my mind was in 2018, the year of the 70th anniversary of the NHS. Many Trusts were at how technology had transformed care delivery and public expectations. Genomes, robots, paperless NHS? Not for LYPFT.
Instead, led by Tricia Thorpe and Matt Dale, working with the teams in the supported living services and our other learning disability (LD) services, a powerful study of the transformation of experiences of adults with LD over the last 70 years was compiled. An event co-delivered with residents, charitable partners, community groups took place in Leeds City Art Gallery.
Local and national dignitaries and many of our partners, families and staff came to hear powerfully moving testimony describing heart-breaking experiences from decades ago, and also to contemporary stories from service users today. Dance, drama and music made this a poignant and memorable way of celebrating progress and change in a way that only LYPFT could do.
LYPFT is strong on working with others to achieve a shared purpose for our service users and carers. Partnership – it’s in our title, so we ought to be good at it. We were doing it before it became a ‘buzzword’. Effective partnerships are fundamentally based on trust, which in turn require integrity and authenticity. Clinical teams within our own services work together. There are strong connections with Leeds Teaching Hospitals’ services, especially in liaison psychiatry and in-reach, as well as many of our specialist services. Leeds is blessed with a strong third sector; and we work with many of these organisations on a daily basis. Further, other NHS partnerships, council services, police and housing.
In Leeds and in York, there are too many partnerships to mention. We also work with organisations who support preventative work, enabling employment, education and creative activity for adults with mental illness, and those with learning disabilities or neurodiversity. Leeds Arts and Minds, and the Recovery College, are just two examples. These and many others make a huge difference to the quality of life for so many.
We also contribute to the emerging wider West Yorkshire partnership arrangements. Not just talking shops, but collaborating to make a difference to the ways services are configured and their impact across a wider area, serving a larger population better.
In this field, we punch above our weight. We are a voice at the table, party to key decisions and influence how resources are allocated. Examples include the development of services for people with eating disorders, the creation of acute and psychiatric intensive care unit services for children and young people, and the perinatal service for women and their families.
In all the words written about NHS values, one quality that is essential, but rarely gets recognised, is determination. Or, if you will, persistence, bloody mindedness, seeing something through. This, to me is the outstanding quality of so many people in the Trust. We should bottle it.
Joe Strummer, founder and lead singer of the 1970s punk band, The Clash is a hero of mine (showing my age!). He was also a bit of a philosopher and said some very wise and insightful things. Here’s what he said about this quality:
‘Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. There is nothing more common that unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.’
The NHS has been through some turbulent times in recent years, and for different reasons, these are set to continue. However, the focus of the Trust to keep delivering core and specialist services, to develop new and innovative services, to constantly adapt, refine and improve, is relentless.
Whether it is a redesign of community mental health services, or the introduction of a new electronic patient record system, the determination to set out the vision, engage staff and leaders to achieve incremental improvement is a passion. Across our services, with no exceptions, I have been honoured to experience the work and determination of professionals in both clinical and in non-clinical areas.
Even so, the health and care system we operate in can be imperfect and frustrating at times. Demand can far exceed supply. Workforce challenges, vacancies, morale and the need to fundamentally improve equality, equity and diversity are a constant challenge. Not to mention limited resources and the relative lack of parity between physical and mental health services.
The Board is under no illusion about the very difficult winter ahead and ongoing pressures in an already creaking system. And yet, the commitment across services, from the front line to the executive team is constant. Your willingness to challenge unfairness, stigma, and inequality is bold and impactful. Not only does the challenge reflect our service users, but also staff experiences too. A special mention here for the work of our rainbow alliance, disability and race and equality staff networks.
The authenticity, partnering and determination I have experienced here will, I’m sure continue to make positive differences to all those we serve, and to all we employ too. Thank you.
Six years has gone in a flash. Sadly, I have to step down a little sooner than hoped, owing to health reasons. But in the New Year a new Chair will take over – so watch this space for more details on who’s got this amazing job.
After almost 40 years in the NHS, the last six have been enriched by the people of LYPFT. Thank you for your candour, your passion, your dedication, and your determination to do your best.
Don’t ever change. You are an inspiration.
Joe Strummer Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository