Q&A: Top boss at Leeds hospitals reveals his priorities

Julian Hartley, Chief Exective of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
Julian Hartley, Chief Exective of Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.
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The NHS has just faced one of its most challenging winters ever. Katie Baldwin quizzed the top boss at Leeds hospitals about why and his next priorities.

WHAT have been the biggest challenges faced by the hospitals trust in the past 12 months?

The last year has been one of the most challenging in its history and the pressures on the health and social care system have been felt across Leeds. At the trust, our Emergency Care Standard (ECS) reflects the reality of these pressures, both for our staff and the patients who need our care. In 2014/15, we were one of few trusts to meet the standard but this year we and other rusts around the UK are finding it a challenge. We are currently seeing, treating or discharging 93.3 per cent of patients who come to our Emergency Departments within four hours against a standard of 95 per cent. Meeting the ECS is both a national and system-wide issue, and we are working across the trust and with partners in Leeds to improve patient flow and resolve the challenges we are facing.

How are Leeds hospitals performing in other areas of care?

We have made huge strides in meeting our service targets and obligations to our patients. Since summer 2015, we have consistently delivered on our 62 day cancer waiting times, have almost halved the number of cancelled operations which are not rebooked within 28 days from 132 to 69, among other acheievements. All of this means faster, more efficient and better care for our patients.

What is your top priority for the next 12 months?

The quality of our care continues to be our main priority. We have attracted national interest in our new patient safety huddles. These ward-based, short meetings identify patients at risk of deterioration and the appropriate actions to take. Other initiatives have resulted in a 30 per cent reduction in 222 calls for urgent medical assistance on pilot wards, and a 20 per cent decrease in falls.

what feedback are you getting from patients about the care at Leeds hospitals?

The 2015/16 NHS Friends and Family Test gathered 87,500 views from patients, and of these 93 per cent said they would recommend the trust to their friends and family, an increase of 1.67 per cent from the year before. The impact of our work to improve discharge processes has started to make a difference and resulted in a significant decrease in the numbers of patients reporting delays. In addition in the past 12 months, new complaints have gone down by 23 per cent.

have you invested in staff?

Last year, we recruited more nurses, midwives and support staff. Overall, the number of colleagues increased from 15,840 in March 2015 to 16,532 in March 2016. We have substantially reduced the amount we spend on agency administrative staff, from £188,000 a week in 2014/15 to a weekly £31,000 in March 2016. These are savings that can be reinvested in patient care. We are also delighted that we are the most improved trust in the UK in the 2015 NHS Staff Survey. Findings have significantly improved in 13 key areas, including motivation at work, support from line managers and the number who feel able to contribute to improvements at work.

What are your aims for the next 12 months?

We are confident that we will meet the targets set out in our 2015/16 financial plan and at the same time, will continue to build on the improvements we are making to the quality of our services and the results of our staff survey to be the best for patient care. As the new financial year begins, we should be under no illusions that it will be a challenge. The trust will need to continue to develop our organisation as a great place to work, delivering better quality care, excellent patient access and financial sustainability across every service. We are in a good position to do this. We have the potential to be one of the best performing trusts in the UK.