Taking Time to Switch Off is a Crucial Part of Self-Care

Hi all

As we near the end of the summer holiday season, as I mentioned in my email to all staff a month ago, I hope everyone has now managed to plan out and book annual leave between now and 30 March 2021 – or indeed taken some leave – to ensure they have time set aside to relax and replenish batteries and keep resilience levels high. 

Like you all, I am extremely proud to work for the NHS. We are a group of amazingly dedicated, talented and resourceful people who strive to provide the best possible care we can, often putting others needs before our own. Whilst these are amazing traits to have, sometimes I see examples of where individuals/teams have developed an unhealthy ‘hero mentality’ or mind set, which can be damaging to the individuals concerned. I have witnessed this in every NHS organisation I have had the pleasure of working in.

This time to ‘switch off’ from the pressures of work is a crucial part of self-care, helping us to relax, unwind, decompress, helping us to recharge our batteries and replenish our resilience levels so we are ready to tackle the next big challenge around the corner, whether that is in our working or personal lives.  If we don’t take regular breaks throughout the year then our resilience levels can slowly get whittled away, until we potentially make ourselves poorly.

Having taken my own annual leave, I can assure you I benefited from the break and the need to recharge my batteries. As we begin to gear up for what will be an extremely challenging Autumn and Winter, I know we’ll need all of those reserves of energy and resilience to draw upon.

Fortunately for a CEO, I also know from the experience of working in Combined Healthcare for the past 17 months that I am surrounded by a quite amazing group of people – at all levels of the organisation. In common with the wider NHS and care system, once again we have coped magnificently with every challenge thrown at us so far and I have full confidence that – working together – we’ll do so again.

​We’re all in this together – and it feels like it.


It’s also great from time to time to see that wider world shares the esteem and recognition we have for each other.  

​In that vein, it was a genuine pleasure to receive a message from Mr Ian Dudson CBE KStJ, Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of Staffordshire. Ian is HM The Queen’s personal representative in the County. He represents Her Majesty on a wide variety of occasions which merit Royal support and which celebrate significant achievement in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

I was delighted and honoured to receive a thank you card and message from him on behalf of the Queen thanking each and every one of our staff for their efforts to combat COVID-19. In turn, I have sent a personal thanks to Ian for his thoughtfulness in challenging times.

The card was accompanied by a request that I find ways to cascade the message down to all our staff.  This blog is one way of doing that, as well as a similar message that our Comms Team included in the weekly Newsround. We’ll also be framing the card and putting it on display in reception at Harplands Hospital.

You could also help us make sure all of our staff see the message from Her Majesty. Please feel free to download the message below and display on your team and ward noticeboards – or bring it to staff’s attention in your next team meeting.


This year is the 30th anniversary of the annual Nursing Times awards. And what better time to receive a fantastic number of shortlisting finalists.

In particular, many congratulations are in order for our LD Team, who have been successful in being shortlisted in no fewer than four categories – an amazing haul.

1.    LD Champion Scheme

Kieran Uttley, Acute Liaison Nurse, Jacquie Shapland, Health Facilitation Lead Nurse, Rosie Zacune, Health Facilitation Community Learning Disability Nurse, Angela Wilson, LD Enablement Worker, Sue Phillips, Team Administrator and Amanda Forrester, Expert by Experience Volunteer, have all been shortlisted for a Nursing Times Award in the Category of Learning Disability Nursing for their work on the LD Champion Scheme. 

They have worked really hard on this project and successfully recruited 116 LD Champions from the staff and volunteers from across UHNM, Combined MH services, and Primary Care. The LD Champions help to make the services they work in accessible for people with a learning disability; they lead change, share knowledge and provide support to help improve outcomes and peoples experience of health care. 

2.    Emotional Regulation Group

Hannah Bloor, Community Learning Disability Nurse, Community Learning Disability Team has been shortlisted for a Nursing Times Award in the Category of Learning Disability Nursing for leading a group approach to improve emotional literacy and increase emotional coping skills for adults with learning disabilities.

3.    Promoting safe sexual wellbeing

Phil Emery, Community Learning Disability Nurse, Community Learning Disability Team has been shortlisted for a Nursing Times Award in the Category of Learning Disability Nursing for being proactive and collaborative with the MDT to ensure service users receive effective support with their emotional and sexual well-being needs.

4.    PBS Clinics

Emma Baker, Community Learning Disability Nurse, Community Learning Disability Team has been Shortlisted for a Nursing Times Award in the Category of Learning Disability Nursing for her work improving service efficacy and efficiency using an MDT education and clinic based approach for PBS (Positive Behavioural Support) interventions

In addition, our Senior Advanced Nurse Practitioner, Michael Groden,  has been shortlisted in the Care of Older People category for our ‘Parity of Esteem in Action – Fit for Frailty in Mental Health Care’ project. Whilst it was a new challenge for a mental health trust to introduce frailty assessment and subsequent medicine optimisation of physical health medications, the team believed they could rise to this challenge as care should not be defined by where it is given or what has gone before.

The essence of this quality improvement was to address the holistic needs of the patients taking into consideration the frailty syndromes of a falls risks (a sudden change in mobility), delirium (acute confusion or sudden worsening confusion), sudden changes in continence and side effects of medication. It is a real life example of ‘parity of esteem’ in action by holistically valuing the integration of physical and mental needs of our older patients. I know the team are really proud of the collaborative interdisciplinary working across the health economy to ensure that we put the patient’s journey at the centre of what we do.

Finally, it’s hats off to Hannah Bloor, Community LD Nurse CLDT,  Heather Dunn, Senior Nurse A&T,  Becky Jones, Ward 7, and Aimee Bramwell, CAMHS. All have been successfully accepted onto the Florence Nightingale Foundation Nurse Leadership Programme.

Congratulations to everyone and we’ll be keeping an eagle eye out for the announcement of the winners on 14 October!


I’d like also to provide a note of reassurance to everyone working for Combined that our entire Leadership Team, and myself personally, are under no illusions about how difficult it is out there for our staff and the several extra miles – never mind a single extra mile – you are all going in very challenging circumstances.

I’m a relentlessly optimistic chap by nature and will always look to praise achievements and successes, banging the drum for us all – and this CEO Blog is another example of that. But I attach equal importance to hearing when things are tough and doing what I can – together with my senior colleagues – to acknowledge and address concerns, worries and problems.

To that end, I’d really like to thank everyone who has made use in recent weeks of the Dear Peter facility – available at http://dearpeter.org. This is a totally anonymous entirely separate, secure website that allows anyone to raise concerns they have about quality or any other related issue in our Trust. You don’t need to give any information about yourself, and you are free to say as much or as little as you are able about your concerns. I personally read every single submission that comes in to Dear Peter and wherever possible, we always publish my response. In return, I ask that any submissions are honest and specific.

In that regard, hearing first hand for example about the realities of day-to-day challenges faced, for example, by services such as Summers View or Kniveden or Crisis Access, is always welcome and will always be treated by me with respect and the utmost seriousness. You can read my response to these and a whole host of other issues on the Dear Peter section of our CAT Intranet.

Of course, we attach equal importance to mechanisms such as our Freedom To Speak Up Champions as an alternative route to raise concerns. Whilst the first port of call, if at all possible, should be to discuss concerns with your line manager, I know sometimes people can feel this isn’t something they feel comfortable doing.

Offering and supporting the ability for everyone to ‘speak truth to power’ is one of the signs of a humane and outstanding organisation and it’s something to which I attach real importance.


Finally, as we all get ready for the months ahead, let me finish as I began – looking forward as we being to gear up for Autumn and Winter.   

There is a massive agenda in our in-tray for our Trust, our local health and care system, the NHS nationally and all of us a society.  

Opportunities as well as challenges.  Things to celebrate and things to address. But NEVER anything to fear. As a brilliant US President, Franklin D. Roosevelt said nearly 90 years ago – “The only thing to fear is fear itself”.

Combined Healthcare and its people have never seemed to me to be an organisation or a collection of friends and colleagues who have EVER feared a challenge or failed to rise to it. I am 100 per cent confident we’ll prove that again over the coming weeks and months.