The end of the year brings some time to reflect; however, recently it’s been more difficult than usual to allow myself time to pause.

As I write this column, the NHS has been asked to put all efforts into COVID-19 vaccination and to scale back anything we can, while keeping our patients safe.

No one can imagine how much work goes on behind the scenes. Still, the NHS is well-versed in making it happen, not least because of our experience with the vaccination rollout.

Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) is the lead provider for Lincolnshire’s vaccination centres at Lincoln Showground and Boston Princess Royal Sport Arena.

Additionally, our Sidings Medical Practice played a crucial role in the vaccination programme led by primary care. I was there when we opened our vaccination centres earlier this year, which now feels like a lifetime ago. I remember being filled with so much pride and hope, and I was touched by the sense of relief and emotion from so many members of public who came to get their vaccinations; for many this was their first outing following months of shielding.

2021 is another year that we can describe as unprecedented. Not only because of the immense demand on services having to cope with reduced staffing due to COVID-19 but also because of the unparalleled support our NHS staff and people of Lincolnshire showed for LCHS and the NHS as a whole.

I want to thank staff, patients and the public. It’s only by looking after each other that we have been able to carry on, as the NHS has never really stopped. This year our teams have been working to recover and restore many of the services which were paused at the peak of the pandemic. We have also introduced new services which offer care closer to home – something that is really important to us at LCHS.

In 2021, we improved our urgent care services with extended opening hours in the Urgent Treatment Centre in Spalding and new, socially distanced facilities in Lincoln. On top of this, we continue to provide urgent treatment centres in Boston, Gainsborough, Louth and Skegness, offering care closer to home.

In July, we launched a physiotherapy pilot in Skegness to offer specialist support to pregnant women as they go through incredible physical and hormonal changes. Patients with chronic respiratory problems benefit again from face-to-face pulmonary rehabilitation as the groups come back to village halls and community centres around the county. And our post-COVID service has just celebrated its first birthday. Since they started 12 months ago, they have seen more than 780 patients.

Our community nurses never stopped; even at the peak of the pandemic, they continued to visit patients in their homes or place of residence. In October, we launched a new urgent community response service, providing a two-hour response for patients who otherwise would have to go to a hospital. We have received more than 200 referrals so far, and only 11% of patients needed to be admitted to an acute hospital.

We have also kept using technology such as video consultations and virtual online classes to reach out to patients.

The above is only a tiny snapshot of what we’ve been doing to restore our services and bring care closer to home in 2021. While accepting there will be challenges ahead, I believe that these new and existing community-based services are the future of the NHS. And our trust is a crucial player in making it happen in 2022.

Chief Executive Officer at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust

We welcome the dawn of a new year with pride for our achievements, plenty to be thankful for and a renewed focus on what we must build upon.

It has been a big year for the National Health Service in 2018, not least as it reached the important milestone of its 70th anniversary.

Here in Lincolnshire, it gave us opportunity to reflect on the vast pool of knowledge and expertise we have among our teams and the extensive yet modest acts of care, kindness and dedication that make the NHS the national treasure it has become. 

We saw amazing feats of endurance and determination as the ‘Beast from the East’ hit the county in February and our operational services battled to do everything in their power to continue delivering round-the-clock care to those who needed it.

This included walking to patients’ homes and clinics, supporting different teams, working with volunteers to get to hard-to-reach places and digging people out of the snow on the way. 

Increasing challenges throughout winter encourage and inspire us to work differently across health and care organisations to ensure we can appropriately manage peaks in demand. 

This saw Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust (LCHS) open Digby Community Ward at Lincoln County Hospital to provide specialist nurse-led support to helping discharge people home quickly and effectively.

It made a significant contribution in Lincoln, facilitating more than 100 discharges in six weeks. 

One of our most significant achievements at LCHS during 2018 was to be rated as ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), becoming only the second community NHS trust in the country to do so. 

This was made possible by the outstanding people we have working for us, who continue to work extremely hard to maintain these high standards of care. 

A joint special educational needs and/or disabilities (SEND) inspection by the CQC and Ofsted of our Specialist Children’s Services later in the year also found elements of effective practice. 

Other notable achievements in the year have included signing the Armed Forces Covenant, being awarded the Ministry of Defence’s Employee Recognition Scheme Silver Award, our Specialist Children’s Services receiving Makaton Friendly status from the national Makaton Charity, and two finalist spots in the national HSJ Value Awards.

We have been very grateful for the support from members of the public for our independent Charitable Funds this year, particularly in supporting the refurbishment of two palliative care suites on Scotter Ward at John Coupland Hospital, Gainsborough, and the purchase of new equipment for the Cardiac Rehabilitation Service in Burgh le Marsh. 

The year has also had its challenges. February saw the closure of Lincoln Walk in Centre, while there has been significant discussion with our service commissioners around the future of inpatient services at County Hospital, Louth.

LCHS also stepped in to deliver interim care through the new Johnson GP Centre based at Johnson Community Hospital in Spalding in September following the retirement of the GP partner from Pennygate Health Centre. 

All of these challenges have brought passionate and extensive debate with local communities, which we welcome and value. 

Looking forward, LCHS continues to play a significant role in Lincolnshire’s health and care system. Continued partnership working will be pivotal in helping Lincolnshire to achieve its ambitions to drive service improvement, outstanding quality and financial sustainability. 

Professional resolution:  As we continue to experience unprecedented demands on NHS services, my resolution for 2019 will be to continue to promote self-care both for our workforce and patients, ensuring we keep our services available for those who really need them.   

Personal resolution: As I get older the year’s fleet past even quicker, so I will need to start my dieting plans much earlier than 2018…the week before Christmas!

Chief Executive Officer at Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust