Retiring CEO reflects on Livewell Southwest’s health and social care journey

5th March 2018

There’s a saying that ‘the only thing that is constant is change’. Nowhere is that more true than in healthcare and as I retire after a 37-year career in that field, it seems the pace of change is ever-increasing.

As an organisation delivering clinical and care services, alongside services to support people’s health and wellbeing, you need innovation, creativity, flexibility, adaptability to lead, support and deliver change. However, we also need to be compassionate, understanding and caring to ensure that the services are secured with the right values and importantly, to learn from situations.

Some of the elements which were fundamental to our organisation when we launched in 2011 are now the essential steps which are being incorporated into developing effective health and care systems across the country. For instance, a central aim as we developed the new organisation was to offer services for people with mental illness, alongside services for people with physical illness. We wanted what is now referred to as a parity of esteem for all people requiring support. This offer was further enhanced in 2015 when we became one of the first integrated community health and social care providers, with the integration of Adult Social care colleagues from Plymouth City Council. So, in many ways, Livewell Southwest has been ahead of the game.

Our commitment to an integrated service delivering care & support and offering interventions to support health and wellbeing  was very much at the core of why we wanted to develop the community interest company (CIC) model, back in 2010. Being an independent not-for-profit social enterprise definitely gave us the flexibility and opportunity to do things differently to help have a better impact on peoples’ lives.

Looking back, the CIC route has been an interesting journey, despite challenges that we have encountered on the way. Around 2,000 staff started that journey from the NHS into Plymouth Community Healthcare, which became Livewell Southwest. Workforce availability is a constant challenge for the entire care sector, however it made us think creatively about how we could develop skills of existing colleagues to build the workforce we needed, and that sense of ‘growing our own’ and providing opportunities for people to develop their careers is a real cornerstone of Livewell Southwest today, which now has more than 3,000 employees.

We were an early implementer of apprenticeships and the range and level of apprenticeships we offer is expanding. We also hosted the first pilot scheme for trainee nursing associates which offer our talented healthcare workers a route into nursing. Our Paid Workplace Programme has supported many individuals back into employment with the opportunity of developing careers in health and care. We are also looking at other routes into careers as Allied Health Professionals and work closely with the local Medical School.

Creating this organisation alongside colleagues across every service, has been exciting, rewarding and a steep learning curve.

Livewell now has services rated overall as good, but with two as outstanding by the Care Quality Commission, including the Glenbourne Unit and Learning Disability Services. Nursing recruitment has dramatically improved, with vacancies for Registered Nurses standing at just 1%. This is testament to the hard work of everyone, in every clinical, care and support service across the organisation.

What’s next? I think we’ve made a good start but there is a lot of work to do. There is a need to enhance and join up care delivery across the City and beyond, including  General Practice, Acute Services and the Community and Voluntary sectors.. There is the opportunity to use the depth and breadth of knowledge that communities and organisations have to support people better in their communities.  We need to think creatively about how we can all work better together, including working with schools to improve awareness and offer opportunities for young people to consider careers in health and care, across the whole sector.

We also need a proper, single shared electronic care record for people receiving support, so that organisations and people  providing that care are able to appropriately access information, avoid duplication and ensuring that the needs of individuals can be met in the most appropriate setting, which hopefully will be at or as near to their home as possible.

I trained as nurse in Plymouth in the early 80s and up until last year I maintained my nursing registration. The first ward I set foot on, as a student nurse, was ward 7 at Mount Gould Hospital and not long ago I found myself back on that ward. It was a moment for reflection on how nursing has changed over those years.
So much has changed for the better since my early nursing days and I’m confident the changes still to come will continue that progress, but my hope is that by reflecting on the learning from the past, that learning can be used positively, in shaping care for the future.