What Chief Executive Sloman Says - March 2006

Progress continues on our new building and we are now working to a handover date of 29 May followed by a six-week commissioning period that should see the building fully functioning during the summer. The new building will provide a wide range of clinical services, including a new 15-bed assessment unit, endoscopy and minor surgery facilities, a cardiology ward, and additional diagnostic facilities.  The enhanced diagnostic capacity will also allow the hospital to provide a wider range of patient services in a single visit. 

 

Our next big challenge will be to improve the quality of the facilities for women and children. In this context I am pleased to report that work on the neonatal intensive care unit appeal – Building for Babies – is going well. Three million pounds may seem like a lot of money to fundraise for but I am sure that if everyone gets as involved as possible we will be able to do it.

 

The Hospital Management Board recently had a discussion about patients’ complaints and compliments to the hospital.  One of the recurrent themes that emerge from letters of both complaint and appreciation is the importance of the way that we communicate with staff and the impact that this has on a patents perception of the care that they receive.  

 

I used last month’s column to talk about the Whittington’s financial position, which will continue to be a focus for our energies over the coming weeks as we approach the end of the financial year.   Over 75 per cent of our budget is spent on staff salaries, and our ability to balance our books depends critically on keeping this area of spending under control.  Last year the Whittington was shown to have a staff sickness absence rate of six per cent, higher than that of other hospitals in the area. Not only does a rate of sickness this high cost the hospital a lot of money due to additional costs of agency staff, but it also impacts on the other members of the team staff who invariably have to cover some aspects of their absent colleagues’ work.  Most importantly, it can also impact on the continuity of care that we offer our patients. 

 

In July 2005 we launched an initiative aimed at tackling this problem using Bradford scores as a way of managing an improving staff absence. For those who don’t know, Bradford scores are a way of identifying individuals with serious absence and patterns of absence worthy of further investigation. Its exact origins are something of a mystery but it is believed to have had some connections with Bradford University’s school of management, hence its name.  The aim of the project was to bring staff sickness down by one per cent over the first six months – that is by January 2006.  A project board that involves both managers and trade union representatives oversees the project.

 

Between August and October we were making good headway with an average sickness rate of well below five per cent.  November to January however, saw an increase in absence bringing the average back to 5.5 per cent.  So for the ‘glass half empty’ amongst us, we missed our target for the first six months, and for the ‘glass half full’ amongst us, we managed to reduce staff sickness by 0.5%.  Either way, this still is not got enough and we owe it to ourselves and our patients to do better in 2007/8.  

 

Working on it!