As I prepare to stand down at the end of this month as Chief Executive of South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust, I am filled with pride and emotion.
It has been a privilege and a pleasure to not only serve this organisation, but to be part of our magnificent NHS, which I still regard as the finest institution in the world, and I am very sad to leave.
In the 36 years I have worked for the NHS, I can honestly say that every single day I have felt proud of its staff and its services.
My own mum was a dedicated nurse and it was she who inspired my passion for the NHS.
It is, of course, a very different body today to the one I joined from university on November 8th, 1979 – starting out in administration before moving on to junior management roles.
Back then, a wait of two to three years was not uncommon for hip surgery; patient choice did not really exist and traditional mixed-sex wards were the norm.
Now, quite rightly, we expect choice and privacy and dignity, as well as safe care and compassion, and these are the measures by which we are judged and which set the NHS apart as a fantastic public service.
Having decided to retire, I’ve been reflecting on the many outstanding achievements of the organisation in the 18 years I have been chief executive, working alongside our chairman Peter Davidson and executive director colleagues.
The shape of our organisation and the range of services we provide has constantly changed.
I think back to 2008 when South Tyneside District Hospital’s new Stroke Unit brought together all parts of the pathway of care for patients; to the provision a decade ago of the new £1.2m Cardiology department offering the most up-to-date treatments and services closer to patients’ homes; to becoming an NHS Foundation Trust 10 years ago, which gave us greater freedom to make local decisions to improve services in line with what local people want; to 2011 when we effectively doubled in size as we took on the responsibility for providing community health services in South Tyneside, Sunderland and Gateshead, as well as hospital services in South Tyneside, creating a major opportunity to integrate and streamline care for patients, and to 2012, when our £8 million Emergency Care Centre – a fantastic example of modern emergency care provision – was officially opened.
In recent years, we’ve also been developing as a centre of excellence for the treatment of patients with bowel cancer; we’ve strengthened our Orthopaedics and Surgery team, offering an even wider range of expertise to patients, together with new and innovative services, and we’ve been at the forefront in developing innovative practice in Obstetrics and Gynaecology.
What has been constant throughout all this time is the excellence of our staff and their commitment to delivering their best for the people we serve.
That is reflected in the many awards they’ve won, our consistent ranking among the best by the organisations which inspect and regulate us and the enviable reputation we’ve gained for meeting challenges and effecting change to improve patient care.
I’m delighted to report that there are ambitious, well-developed plans for the future to hand on to the Trust’s next generation of leaders.
For example, as I write, I can see work rapidly progressing on the building on the District Hospital site of a £9 million state-of-the-art centre, which will offer integrated health and social care services to South Tyneside’s growing population of older people, particularly those with dementia, and their carers and families.
This will open next year and is just the first step on the road towards the Trust becoming the premier combined hospital, community and wellbeing provider in the North East by 2020.
I deeply appreciate the opportunity I have been given over almost two decades to work with an excellent team of people at all levels in the Trust.
In particular, I’d like to record my thanks to our Chairman, Peter, who has been a great mentor and friend.
It has been my honour to work with someone who genuinely cares about the community we serve and who wants our patients to receive the very best care, and our staff to work with us because they enjoy doing so.
Also, my son, Jamie, and daughter, Caitlin, have my unending gratitude, because without their support and understanding, I could not have done the job I have loved so much.
Finally, I just want to add my very best wishes to the Trust and to every single member of staff for the future.
I am humbled to have had the privilege to be part of so many lives and to have worked with such caring and dedicated people throughout my career.
South Tyneside NHS Foundation Trust.