High-level support

by Yuliya Kosharevska

21 January 2019

Chief executives of NHS organisations are in a tough position. Not only are they held to account for organisational performance, but they must also think about the whole system.

‘There is a tension, but if you can acknowledge this and identify ways in which you can address today so you can build for tomorrow, you’ll get the balance right,’ says Suzanne Tracey (pictured), who in July became the chief executive of Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust in addition to Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust. The two have a collaborative agreement to cope with challenges such as recruiting medical workforce and safeguarding services.
Peer support, such as the HFMA CEO forum, and system and nationwide collaboration are vital, she says. ‘Regulators are increasingly open to looking at what you’re doing on a system-wide level, as long as you’re clear about how you’re managing the challenges for the individual organisations.

‘I think it’s the right thing to do. Given the size of the challenges organisations face at the moment, particularly around workforce, it’ll be difficult for a single organisation to address them effectively.’

Within Devon Sustainability and Transformation Partnership, providers and commissioners have a mutual support principle to improve patient outcomes and minimise risks to patient safety caused by demand and capacity imbalance. ‘If one of the organisations is having a short term challenge due to vacancies or sickness, for example, this mutual aid agreement allows them to formally request help from other providers in the area and we have all committed to support wherever possible,’ says Ms Tracey.

‘Northern Devon has benefited particularly from the agreement – with providers across the Devon system providing short-term support to help maintain clinical services.’

Ms Tracey is an active member of the HFMA CEO forum, which offers chief executives the opportunity to talk about challenges they face.

‘Sometimes you’ve got your head down in the day-to-day work and it’s difficult to see things from a different perspective,’ says Ms Tracey. ‘The CEO forum is a great way to step back from it for a short while and bring new ideas back to your organisation.’

The next CEO forum event is on 12 February, with an informal dinner on the previous evening. 
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