This year marked the 70thanniversary of the national health service and with it came lots of amazing and inspirational stories about the difference the NHS has made both in Lincolnshire and nationally.

We started the financial year being told by the Care Quality Commission that we’d got better! They visited at a tough time when the Beast from the East was here but, despite that, they saw some great improvements.

There was the brilliant news about the new Lincoln Medical School being developed by the University of Nottingham and University of Lincoln, and the £1.8 million capital funding by the Department of Health and Social Care to develop medical education facilities at the trust to support this.

As a trust we have also committed to a £1 million investment to kick start the introduction of  electronic health records, making them up to date and accessible at all times, leading to safer and more efficient services.

Impressions of the £21.1 million Lincoln Medical School.

Our new text notifications for outpatient appointments launched this year which gives patients access to a portal showing the letter, any attachments and a map of how to get to the hospital. The portal allows them to accept or rebook the appointment.

We believe these and other investments in technology will result in a better experience for our patients and enable our staff to spend more time on patient care.

The National Centre for Rural Health and Care was launched, this is the brainchild of health and education professionals from Lincolnshire and the East Midlands.

Jan Sobieraj, Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust. Photo: Steve Smailes for Lincolnshire Reporter

It aims to bring about improvements in healthcare delivery in rural settings, through research, better use of data, workforce developments and improved technology.

There is no doubt that 2018 has also presented us with some challenges:

  • We have worked hard around our financial deficit
  • Our staffing shortages resulted in the introduction of the interim women’s and children’s model at Pilgrim hospital
  • Our performance is not always where we want it to be against the national targets, but we have plans in place to address this.

Despite this I have seen some great things which inspire me, make me proud and give me optimism for a better future.

We have developed some really innovative, transformative approaches never tried in the Trust before:

  • The new trauma and orthopaedics pilot is going well and saw the Trust perform more orthopaedic elective operations in one week than in any other week before
  • The £1.8 million investment in the “Big Change” project is leading to better urgent care pathways at Pilgrim Hospital, Boston
  • We have seen 6,000 more outpatients compared to last year
  • We have continued with our huge investment in fire safety (around £2m per month)
  • Our innovative partnership with EMAS and SSG Health consultants saw our ambulance handover times almost half
  • The introduction of quality matrons has seen 16 of the Trust’s 40 adult inpatient wards that have been regularly inspected and assessed against a range of measures and achieve green ratings and overall improvements

We have been recognised in national awards, including being shortlisted for the Nursing Times surgical nurse of the year, the Health Service Journal (HSJ) system led support for carers and we won the HSJ innovation in mental health for our partnership work around transforming ADHD care across the East Midlands.

We also won The Sun nurse of the year and had 11 nominees shortlisted for the Lincolnshire Health Awards where we won five awards and received one highly commended.

We know we have lots to do, but the start of a new year gives us a great opportunity to pause, take stock and think about the progress we have made.

I am sure 2019 will bring its own challenges, but I am hopeful that it will also provide more opportunities for us to work with our health partners, the public, our patients, their families and local residents to provide the best possible hospital services that they want, need and deserve.

I would like to thank all of my colleagues in the NHS for working so hard, often going above and beyond in their daily working lives and wish them and all Lincolnite readers a merry Christmas and a happy new year.

Jan Sobieraj is the new Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

The nights are drawing in and the temperature is falling – which means winter is on its way and so are our preparations for flu.

For the majority of people flu is unpleasant, but not life-threatening. However, it can be very serious for some groups who are at risk of developing complications, including those with weakened immune systems, pregnant women, young children and people with underlying health conditions such as liver, lung or renal disease, heart problems, asthma or diabetes.

Every year, the flu vaccination is available to all NHS staff, to ensure they are offered protection as they are more likely to be exposed to the virus. By getting vaccinated it is their way of not only protecting themselves but also our patients and their families. I have already had mine as I do every year #FluFighter. Typically around 75% of our staff get one and this year I hope we will have even more.

Vaccines are available and members of the public should contact their GP for more information. They are free if you are aged over 65 years, are pregnant, have a long term medical condition or are a carer. Young children may also be eligible for a free flu vaccination through their GP or school.

Every winter we see a lot of patients being admitted with complications caused by flu and colder weather conditions. Understandably, this can be very worrying for patients and their families, but it also means many of our beds are taken up with poorly people who could have remained well if they had been vaccinated or taken steps to avoid illness. If hospital wards are full then it can cause a backlog in A&E and even cancelled operations.

It is always important to look after our health and here are a couple of simple steps you can take to help you and your family stay well this winter.

At the first sign of a winter illness, even if it’s just a bad cough or cold and you’re worried, get advice from your pharmacist, before it gets more serious. This is often the best and quickest way to help you recover and get back to normal. If you can’t go yourself, the advice is to ask someone to go for you or have a chat with the pharmacist over the phone.

We know some visits to our A&Es and urgent care services are simply to get repeat medications, so please save yourself the stress and wait by making sure you keep topped up with any repeat prescriptions.

You can also ask your pharmacist what medicines should be in your cabinet to help get you and your family through the winter season.

If you do become unwell and need medical help fast but it’s not a 999 emergency, call NHS 111 for clinical advice, assessment and for direction to the most appropriate services for treatment. This might not necessarily mean a trip to A&E, but they will find the best way to get you back on your feet.

For less urgent health needs, contact your GP or local pharmacist. You can also use the new ASAPLincs website and app that will help diagnose your symptoms or condition and also advise on the most suitable place to go for your care

Jan Sobieraj is the new Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

I am pleased to report that our pilot project to transform orthopaedic surgery across the county has got off to a good start. Our aim is to improve the experience and outcomes for patients by dramatically reducing the number of cancelled operations.

We have been learning from some of the top performing trusts in the country who are able to offer a better service by separating their elective and emergency orthopaedic surgery, resulting in better outcomes for patients.

The model of all of the trust’s sites at Boston, Grantham, Louth and Lincoln, doing everything for all patients is struggling at times to cope with the increasing demand. The pilot will see all of the trust’s sites working together, with each one focussing on elements of care that will help to improve the overall patient experience.

Last year we had high cancellation rates, with 900 patients having their orthopaedic operations cancelled. The unprecedented demand over winter was a significant contributor to this, however it is not acceptable and with this trial we can stop this from happening again and provide a much better service to the people of Lincolnshire.

In the first five weeks of the trial we have only had to cancel one orthopaedic patient’s operation, which is a massive improvement and is really encouraging.

This is a really exciting time for the trust, if we can make the trial a success our vision is to make Grantham and District Hospital an orthopaedic centre of excellence, secure a multi-million pound investment in theatres, with bold visions to make it one of the top performing hospitals in the country for joint replacements.

We have listened and responded to public opinion gathered during recent engagement sessions where the vast majority of people said they would be happy to travel to a centre of excellence for their planned operations, as long as they could still have their other pre and post-op care locally. Which is exactly what this project enables us to do.

It is also good news for emergency patients at all of our hospitals. By managing all of our routine elective surgery at Grantham and almost doubling our day cases at Louth it means that we will be in a better place to manage emergency cases at Lincoln, Grantham and Boston.

It will enable us to get patients into our theatres sooner and free up beds in A&E.

This is an exciting plan with big ambitions to provide our patients with the first class service that we want and know we can deliver and more importantly it is the level of service that they deserve.

In the first week of the pilot the surgical team at Grantham operated on 36 patients who required planned orthopaedic operations and overnight care, which is impressive when you consider that pre-trial Grantham only operated on an average of 11 patients per week who required an overnight stay.

By starting the trial in August, it means it will be established in time to help us with our preparations and plans for winter. At the end of the pilot we will be able to take stock and look at how things have gone with the trial, before deciding on the next steps.

Jan Sobieraj is the new Chief Executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.

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