How We Have Progressed Since Achieving Outstanding & Why We Want To Develop our People

Hi all

Only a couple of weeks into the New Year and it already feels like we’re fully up to speed after the break. We have our first Trust Board meeting this week and it’s a packed agenda. One of the main items in my CEO Board update is a stock take on the fabulous amount of work that has gone on across Combined since we achieved our Outstanding status, with a strong focus on avoiding complacency by maintaining and further improving our levels of performance and capability.  There has been so much we’ve done in this regard since I became Chief Executive across all five CQC domains – to which I will be bringing the Board’s attention as well as congratulating our frontline teams on their efforts and commitment. I wanted you all to know, directly, how much we recognise and value everything that has been going on.

The full details are available in my latest CEO Board Report which is available, along with all others since May 2018, on our public website at From this month’s Board we will also be making available on the website a video recording of the portion of the Trust Board meeting which contains both my update and the update from our Chairman. It’s part and parcel of our commitment to increasing the accessibility and openness of our Board proceedings and widening the visibility of what we do.


In a related development, I spent some of my Christmas break reflecting on how myself and the rest of the Executive Team make ourselves available to teams across the Trust, seeing first hand what you all do and giving you the opportunity to give us feedback and ideas, as well as raise any concerns or contribute insights you may have.

We already have a wide range of methods we use, from the Dear Peter confidential website, our Freedom to Speak Up Guardians, our Exec and Non-Exec Director Q&A visits to teams and unannounced quality visits. We also have our Leadership Academy and face-to-face Team Brief sessions. These are all really valuable, tried and tested. But I believe we could do more to make our Executive Team available to all frontline staff  in a less formal environment, possibly via drop-in sessions across our Trust locations.

I’ve asked our Communications Team to carry out a review and come back to the Executive Team with proposals, so please do tell us what works well or not so well, what is valued most or what could be improved and – in particular – any ideas you may have for new ways of making our Executive Team available to all. You can email them at – and please put the text “Review of frontline feedback methods” in the subject line. Once the Review is completed, we will publish its findings and recommendations.


As many of you will know, the review of our People Plan is also currently underway. Our People Plan will guide what we do within Combined to develop our People, our culture and how we attract, recruit and retain talented staff. We strive for a transparent organisational culture where our collective leadership is transformational and inclusive, improving our people’s experience and shows that we are living our values. 

By achieving this, we can further improve the quality of care we are able to provide to our patients, carers, local communities and beyond. 

I wanted to flag up to everyone how you can get involved in this Review.

Engagement has already started with the entire HR directorate participating in a workshop, brainstorming where we are, the possibility of what we could achieve and what we believe will have most impact on our staff and patient care.

Our 5th February Leadership Academy session will engage our senior leadership cadre, seeking their views, feedback and input to shape our People Plan.

Staff engagement sessions taking place across the Trust between 21st-28th February, are aimed at all staff, of all levels and of all professions, both clinical and non-clinical staff, encouraging them participate and provide their feedback on what they believe is important for inclusion in our People Plan.

Please book your place on one of the following dates by emailing:

Friday 21 February (1–3pm)       Lawton House Boardroom (ST4 8HH)

Thursday 27 February (9.30–11.30am)Bridge Centre, Birches Head (ST2 8DD)

Friday 28 February (1.30–3.30pm)       Harplands, Academic 1&2 (ST4 6RR)

If you have any questions or queries, please do not hesitate to contact Neil Clarke using the above email address, or call on 07720 338117. This extensive engagement will shape our People Plan, strengthening our approach and creating buy-in and support for helping us to turn our ambitions into reality.


It’s always great to see the wealth of expertise possessed by our staff getting a national profile.

The National Mental Health Nurse Directors Forum newsletter, Leading Minds, has recently featured not one but two papers produced by our Combined staff.

Take a look on page 12 to read the paper by Jacquie Shenton and Andrea Slinn titled ‘Service Development Project – Development of an intensive, structured sleep pathway for children with moderate to severe learning disabilities in a Children’s Community Learning Disability Team’.

Secondly, you can read the paper written by Chris Fieldhouse, Stuart Fisher and Jason Snape on page 16 titled ‘Co-existing Mental Health & Substance Misuse need: Improving communication and growing confidence within and between services’. What a fantastic achievement for our staff and for the Trust to have our experts share their findings – well done to everyone involved!


Amidst a number of reviews like the ones above, it’s also important to bear in mind that, sometimes, it’s the smallest things that can make a big difference.

As you will know, for the first time this year at Christmas, we sent a token of our appreciation to all our frontline teams in the form of a small bag containing a Thank You message – each one personally signed by myself and our Chair – some fruit, chocolates, biscuits and tea bags. It was quite an in-house effort to organise, pack and distribute, but I have been struck by the number of really positive responses I’ve received from staff for this gesture of recognition.

Can I thank everyone who took the trouble to send me feedback on this. It was really gratefully received both by myself personally and by the team who organised it.