Happy, Happy Father’s Day

I woke up this morning to gifts of home made lemon meringue cake from my daughter and a “King Dad” Toblerone from my son George. It’s Father’s Day in the UK – a day to be proud of your kids and I am very proud of both of mine.

When George was born with Down Syndrome, we had a lot of questions and concerns. The first few days and weeks of his life were a blur – living in the Leeds General Infirmary, watching him shrink every day as he struggled with a heart condition. Surgery at 6 weeks was essential.

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I have a number of standout memories from that time: tube feeds every three hours, with an endless cycle of breast pumps, feeding, cleaning equipment and holding him tight as the milk slowly dribbled through the naso-gastric tube;  the sheer love and care of the NHS staff and Leeds Mencap team supporting us; and taking him home for the weekend before surgery so we could have that family memory, just in case he died during the operation.

One of the clearest memories I have is of asking the consultant and the nursing staff what he would be like when he grew up? Would he go to school? Talk? Get a job or a home? They wisely said that we should just enjoy our baby – who was very beautiful it’s true – because who knew what the future held. Down Syndrome affects people in different ways.

Little did I know that George would grow up to be the most hard working and inspiring son I could have wished for. He is such a positive force in the lives of many people and faces the world with an attitude that he can succeed at anything. He doesn’t always succeed it’s true. But he has achieved things I couldn’t at his age and that fill me with hope.

Let me give you an example. This weekend was the Annual Parkrun Conference. This is the time all of the Ambassadors for Parkrun get together to talk about supporting the phenomenon that is Parkrun.

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George has been involved in Parkrun for the last few years – as a volunteer at Woodhouse Moor Parkrun and also running Parkrun once a month. He is a fixture, has many friends and is very popular for the encouragement he gives everyone and the positivity he brings.

George was invited along to speak at the Conference and to be unveiled as one of the people taking on a new Parkrun role. He is now a Parkrun StAR – Storyteller, Advocate and Role model. He will be working in schools and communities to help encourage people to get involved in Junior Parkrun and Parkrun. The Parkrun volunteering team, led by Jaz Kaur Bangerh asked us to attend the Conference in Ashridge. We prepared his talk in advance and worked with Rowan Ardil to make sure that the interview between them covered the right ground. George was undaunted and happy to speak.

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Following a beautiful run at Tring Parkrun, which George ran in 43 minutes with Sam Dooley and Frank Jones helping avoid the cows on the track, we got ready.

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As George and Rowan got on the stage and discussed the new role and George’s experiences I looked out at a sea of faces. People laughed at his jokes – usually at my expense – they cheered at how much he loved Parkrun and they drank in every word. Clearly a few people were in tears.

“Tell us why you will be good in this role George” asked Rowan

“Because I am a good role model for adults and kids especially, and I think Parkrun is great!” said George.

As I sat listening to the claps and cheers, I understood that he’s right. And that he is role model for me too.

I was then asked what Parkrun has done for us as a family. Alongside fitness and friendship, I said that the biggest gift was that people had stopped seeing George, the child with Down Syndrome. They just saw George, their mate, a volunteer and someone who always looks ahead with positivity and passion.

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And what more could a Dad ask for than that? Happy Father’s Day.

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I would like to thank Paul Sinton-Hewitt for being a visionary, all of the staff & volunteers who run Parkrun, all of the people at Woodhouse Moor, and all of the Ambassadors for making us so welcome at Ashridge. You are inspirational people and have helped us so much. And a big thanks to Jaz, Rowan and Cathy for thinking of us and making it possible.

 

 

A Christmas Call – a blog with John Walsh

One of my colleagues from Leeds, John Walsh, does joint blogs with people from across the system. I was privileged that he agreed to write one with me. Here it is. Happy Christmas.

“ Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” – Hamilton Wright Mabie  

Last Christmas a worker at a NHS health centre for the homeless rushed through the streets of the city centre loaded down with carrier bags. In the bags were Christmas gifts and tins of chocolates. She had hoped her colleague would accompany her but the colleague was drawn away to clinical duties due the demands on the service.

The destination was the local refugee drop-in. The idea was for the refugee children to each receive a small present – a colouring book and pens – and gifts of chocolates for everyone there. The money was raised, the gifts bought, donated and duly wrapped. The clock was running fast so the worker decided the best bet was to walk across town.

The city centre bustled with people and shoppers. Halfway through the journey the handle on one of the bags burst. Our friend sighed, grabbed the bag by its body and ventured on. She was stressed – she had so much work on back at the centre and was behind with things too. She arrived at the drop in centre – flustered and out of breath. She was happy to put the bags down.

The refugee drop-in was full – adults and children filled the centre and sat around tables. People who had endured unimaginable experiences a short time before in the war torn areas of Syria were here and were safe. She started to distribute the chocolates on the tables and gave the presents to the children. The children opened the gifts and got down to the colouring and drawing. Colleagues from the local authority arrived with presents too.

As our friend stood there she started to fill with emotion and well up with tears. Something was unfolding before her – something very simple yet incredibly significant. It was an experience that touched her heart. She stayed a short while and then returned to the busy, never ending world of NHS healthcare.

On her way back she reflected on what she had seen. For a short time at the drop in centre, she had stopped her rush-a-day work life and been given a clear message. There were three parts to this.

The first was she recognised in that little church hall what really matters. It’s people who matter. Seeing the joy in the faces of those children was what both Christmas and work was all about. Seeing people with nothing, happy to receive and to find joy in simple gifts. Caring for others and bringing joy to those near and far from us was the most important thing. It is what we do to others that teaches us most about ourselves and what our services should do.

The second reflection was that we are all in this together. The local authority, third sector, shops that gave free chocolates, good hearted individuals who helped and the faith community who hosted the sessions. It said that we work best when we work and learn together. Each bringing their own contribution to make something greater than the individual parts.

In that room she saw how cities and services must be in the future – moving from silos to solidarity. Solidarity comes from the French for ‘interdependent, complete, entire’. Solidarity here was a unity for change and care in the heart of a city.

The last reflection that struck our colleague was that we all have a part to play and that a public service ethos is a powerful connector. She had seen it in the busy colleagues who couldn’t attend but who spent time meticulously wrapping the presents; the local Co-Op manager that donated chocolates; the fact that the city was working to support the most marginalised.

This wasn’t just a Christmas tale but an everyday one – people in the NHS and with a public service ethos everywhere – united in a shared purpose to do good and make a difference, whatever your circumstances, wherever you are from. This was an event perpetually happening in so many places.

Public services sometimes get things very wrong. At other times they shine like diamonds.” 

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Public service is a deeply held belief and drives people to create the best they can. This is one of the main reasons why we think so many go the extra mile and work outside of hours to try to help. This wish to publicly serve is something to value, cherish and celebrate. It is about making a contribution to build a better world. A world without social workers, therapists, nurses, doctors, support workers, porters, drivers, chaperones, hostel workers, advocates and everyone who chooses to serve people as a public good would be a lesser place. Public service is a commitment to social wellbeing, development and cohesion.

At this time of the year we hear and see the great Christmas tales. Books like ‘A Christmas Carol’, films like ‘Its a Wonderful Life’ and the story of the health worker at the refugee centre remind us what really matters.

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When it comes down to it, it’s all about people – like you, like us and everyone else who makes a difference to those we care about.

The writers would like to wish everyone a great Christmas and happy 2017. We hope it will be a time of great joy for you and yours.

We dedicate this blog to all those – families, patients, carers, staff and volunteers and people out there who every day show us what true humanity and care is all about – thank you – you inspire us to keep on hoping and going. 

 

John Walsh and Rob Webster

Photos used from public sources #AdsParty @NHSEmployers, Closer magazine from @nhsbarnsleyccg featuring @allofusinmind health integration team, York St Practice @lchnhstrust, and drop-in centre @pafras_leeds

This is your organisation, we support you, we need you

b4Welcome to The View

Hello, my name is Rob, I’m your chief executive.

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Values based leadership is essential in public service and the NHS – and I have made it a feature of my ambition for our Trust. I always say that you need to be clear on your values so that in tough times you do the right thing or that you have a guide when there is no ”right answer” to a wicked issue. One of our values is being respectful, honest, open, and transparent. At the heart of this is integrity, including a commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. We try and reflect the communities we serve in all their diverse glory.

The news is full of stories and debate that may make people who are “foreign” or “different” or not “White British” feel unwelcome. A positive story about boosting medical training has turned into a suggestion “overseas” doctors are not valued. The emerging policy that all companies will be required to list “foreign workers” has been widely criticised. I would like to offer a balancing view.

The NHS was built on “overseas” staff and continues to run because of them. When I met a group of 100  “Windrush” nurses in Leeds in 2013 they were so proud of the NHS they had built following their journey from the Caribbean. Many of them in their 70s and 80s, they were still excited and passionate about their careers, their roles and their nursing contribution.

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Our own organisation is made up of a mixture of people from different and diverse backgrounds, each contributing to the successful delivery of services within SWYPFT. Our ambition is to ensure that we harness all of their potential and the strength that diversity brings. If you are feeling scared, stigmatised or disappointed by the wider debate, please know that this is your organisation, we will support you and that we need you. Every day, from porter to professor, OT to trainee you are making a difference and enabling people to fulfil their potential and live well in their communities.

Of course we don’t always get this right. There were challenging discussions at the launch of our own Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) network last week and there is more to do. We have positive staff survey results in 2016 to build on. We don’t yet reflect the diversity of our population across the organisation and must act if we are to deliver services that better meet the need of populations.

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Values based leaders accept feedback and challenge and I benefitted from free, expert advice on this agenda when I took part in the “Board” simulation event for the ‘Ready Now’ national leadership programme. The programme takes BAME leaders from across the country and gets them to work on specific challenges. Three groups of leaders were asked to consider SWYPFT’s approach to equality and inclusion, based on our real Board papers and feedback recommendations to the “Board”, made up of 8 real chairs, chief execs and execs. It was a fantastic insight into what was good about SWYPFT’s approach and what was not. Myself, Alan Davis and Tim Breedon left feeling the participants got a lot from the session, and that we got even more out of it. Fresh eyes, real insights.

Perhaps the most courageous statement was from a young woman who said success for her would be

“seeing someone who looks like me sitting at that end of the Board table”.

She was right, and I am sure the Leadership Academy Programme, our involvement in Gatenby Sanderson’s work on NED development for BAME communities and a refreshed inclusion strategy will help. We will certainly be better equipped and informed following the session this week and I would like to thank the participants for their passion and honesty.

Perhaps, she was a good example of “leading from every seat” in an organisation, something I talk about regularly here in the Trust. It’s something I see every day. I see it in the movers and shakers and the unsung heroes putting together the BAME network. I see it in the people challenging stigma and fear, with professionalism, care and a clear link to our values. One of my jobs is to amplify it, point it out and celebrate it.

So, thanks to our team of peer-to-peer vaccinators leading the way on flu uptake. Thanks to the porters at CNDH for raising issues about waste and recycling that was discussed at our executive management team this week. Thanks to the people and teams who were entered for our Excellence awards and congratulations to our finalists. Thanks to the team who put together the SWYPFT cycle club -according to Sarah Hennessy, our librarian, the first cycle this Saturday is an ‘easy’ 22 miles that will be fuelled by mid-way cake.

And thanks to all of you for who you are, how you are and what you do. The world outside is debating difference and there is a risk we exacerbate differences. I’d rather we celebrated our diversity, saw it as the asset it clearly is and used it to deliver for the people we serve.

 

Have a great weekend,

 

Rob

Chief executive

 

This post was sent to all staff on 8th October 2016. I send a mail weekly called The View.