Dear colleagues

Last week, one of our longest-stay inpatients was able to go home. It was a terrific moment, and such a turnaround from five months ago when his life was in the balance.

When he arrived on C8 with Sepsis deep in his leg bone, Derrick needed multiple operations and courses of antibiotics to stabilise him. Even then, he was left unable to walk, stand or use one of his arms. But despite having to overcome considerable pain, Derrick worked hard with our physiotherapy team to regain strength and independence enough to return home to his family.

Following his treatment, Derrick was glowing with praise for those who looked after him.

“I have seen the magic that they do,” he said. “All of them – the nurses, consultants, secretaries, physios, cleaners – they all care, they really do. I feel really lucky to have been here.”

You can watch Derrick’s story on our website here, and I would encourage everyone to take a look. For me, this story epitomises what we do here at CUH. Every single member of staff has a critical role to play in delivering safe, kind and excellent care, and together we change so many lives for the better.

An incredible response for our patients

We have come through another tough winter. On behalf of the leadership team, I want to thank you for the way you coped during the first part of this year with the Omicron wave and the many other winter pressures. You have continued to show immense courage and fortitude when, over and over again, yet more has been asked of the NHS. All of this has been done alongside our partner organisations, to whom we are also incredibly grateful.

Together, our overriding concern has been to ensure that those who are awaiting clinically urgent care are prioritised. We have maximised the number of patients being seen in both outpatient and inpatient settings, in order to also treat those who have waited the longest.

We have continued to offer virtual appointments where appropriate, reducing the need for patients to travel to our hospital site. Some diagnostic services are now available in new community locations, seven days a week. An expansion in our pre-assessment unit is helping to prepare patients for their operations which aids a faster recovery; and we have supported more patients to have day surgery, including at our theatres in Ely, enabling safe discharge without the need for an overnight stay. To put this in context, on Monday this week we performed 116 elective operations; the pre-Covid average was 112 per day. A phenomenal achievement.

These tremendous efforts put CUH on track to meet NHS England priorities for reducing waiting lists, starting with those waiting more than two years, a backlog we are due to clear by the end of June.

Despite this excellent progress, sadly many people are still waiting too long for urgent appointments and procedures. I suspect that we all know someone in this position – we may even be those people ourselves. So this is a very personal and real challenge, and we do understand how upsetting and debilitating waiting for treatment can be. We continue to strive to do everything possible to increase capacity and reduce waiting times.

Where we are now

Thankfully, Covid infection rates are on the decline, and cases of serious illness and death caused by the virus are greatly reduced. This week we are caring for around 30 inpatients with Covid-19, down from a peak of around 120 in early April. This is definitely welcome news.

As a result, we have been able to join with the rest of the country in easing some of the restrictions which have governed our recent lives. We have now removed social distancing rules in most of the hospital, reopened more beds, and resumed additional visiting. These are really important and significant steps in being able to provide the best possible care to our patients, as well as improving safe flow from the emergency department into the hospital for those who need to be admitted.

Within our staff group, we know that some colleagues are full of energy and enthusiasm to press onwards, while others feel exhausted, tired and burnt out. These difficult feelings can hit anyone at any time, and if that is the case I urge you to seek help. Details of the wide range of support available can be found here: Health & Wellbeing – COVID-19 CUH staff information. It is vital that we continue to watch out for each other and take time to pause and check in with colleagues.

A strategy refresh to take us forward

Throughout the past two years, we have continued to push forward in every area of the hospital, thanks to the fantastic efforts of clinical and corporate teams across the organisation. This sets us up well for the future. Hopefully many of you will have had the opportunity to engage with our strategy team as they have sought to double check we are prioritising the right areas as we plan for the years ahead.

Our three broad priorities remain the same: improving patient care, supporting our staff and building for the future.

On the first of these, thank you to everyone involved in developing our new operational strategy. We are moving away from the command-and-control model, which was needed during the pandemic, back to greater divisional accountability and responsibility. We have learned much from the last two years, such as how to remove bureaucracy and red tape, enabling people to make effective changes in their areas of expertise. We are determined to maintain these changes for the better, and we will communicate more about the new operational strategy soon. We will also be developing our plans as an Integrated Care Partnership for the South of the county, working in collaboration with our partners in primary, community and social care.

Our strategic priority of supporting our staff could not be more important to me. I am so grateful for all of your feedback on how we can move forward together. We have listened to what you have said through the staff survey and we are looking at how we can best support you to do the best for our patients. Alongside our work on recruitment, inclusion, training and development, we are progressing the work to improve staff amenities, we are exploring how we can access more affordable housing and we are supporting travel costs to help staff through this cost of living crisis.

Huge amounts of work are going into building for the future. It is wonderful to see work which started two years ago now coming to fruition. The new T2, P2 and Q2 wards have delivered a significant increase in our capacity, and we are looking forward to the 56-bed U block opening later this year. Our two new hospitals, Cambridge Children’s Hospital and Cambridge Cancer Research Hospital, are both progressing well through the government’s rigorous business planning stages, and we expect to submit Outline Business Cases in the next few months. Excitingly, both these projects are being co-produced with patients, and we look forward to sharing these experiences more widely across CUH in order that patients can become even more involved in our shared future.

Our strategy refresh will also emphasise the importance of research and teaching, of digital developments, and of making more progress on equality, diversity and inclusion, and on sustainability and our Green Plan.

Working with our partners

All that we have achieved, and will continue to do for our community, is done with others. We are immensely grateful to our friends and colleagues across health and care, local government, the Cambridge Biomedical Campus and beyond.

The results of the seven-yearly UK Research Excellence Framework, which ranks efficient and impactful use of funding within research, were published last week. Our warmest congratulations go to our partners at the University of Cambridge for their excellent performance overall, and in particular to the Clinical School which was ranked number one in the country for the quality of research.

This stands our campus, and Cambridge more widely, in such a strong position going forward as we seek to turn extraordinary discovery and development into delivery of better lives for all.

And finally…

There is no doubt that we continue to face many challenges. But we must not overlook the momentous achievements that we have already secured through working together, and we must celebrate our many successes. Over the coming weeks, we will hear many examples of this from over 1,000 nominations which have been received for the first Annual Staff Awards.

You are the most fantastic team. Thank you for everything that you do, and I look forward to seeing many more of you face-to-face as we enjoy resuming a more normal life.

With best wishes