Sue Symington smiling and the text 'As I see it - the latest blog from Sue Symington'

As I see it – the latest blog from Sue Symington

Over the last few weeks, I have had the fortune of attending and speaking at various events. It is always wonderful to meet and speak with those from different industries and sectors, all of whom have an impact on our population’s wellbeing.

I have broken this blog into four sections from recent engagements:

  • Innovation, Research and Improvement
  • The Daily Dilemma and an Extraordinary Opportunity
  • Linking health and wellbeing with productivity
  • York Minster Carol Service: a testament to the NHS

Innovation, Research and Improvement

Firstly, I want to mention the launch event for our Humber and North Yorkshire Innovation, Research and Improvement System – known as IRIS. We had leaders join this session from across a range of health, care, research and education organisations.

Innovation, research and improvement are essential elements of a thriving health and social care system, and bringing these together creates a place to encourage system transformation and partnership working.

I was asked to deliver some closing thoughts to this event, and I used this as a plea to the audience:

  • To look at how they can unite efforts on innovation, research, and improvement in their organisations.  
  • To strive to rebalance internal conversations, looking to innovate and improve to build a better future for health and care for those we serve, whilst facing the need to address current challenges of today.
  • To lead on creating an environment in their own workplaces that values and encourages innovation, research and improvement.
  • To show courage in leadership by embracing the roles of innovator, researcher, and improver. This will not only contribute to positive change within organisations, but also serve as an inspiration to others.

The Daily Dilemma and an Extraordinary Opportunity

Continuing with an innovation theme, I was also asked recently to present at an event hosted by Agilisys to an audience of ‘Top 100 Leaders’.  Agilisys is an organisation which focusses on digital innovation in the public sector, creating a positive impact on people’s lives and shaping a better tomorrow.

As with many of these talks, there was a focus on how we manage the priorities of today whilst looking at the opportunities for tomorrow – this is our daily dilemma.

There are those things which are important, such as innovation, research and improvement, digital technology, effective use of data, and transformation. The challenge is balancing these against the urgent: full Emergency Departments, elective care backlogs, access to GP and dental appointments, diagnostic and cancer waiting times.

The extraordinary opportunity comes through our integration and looking beyond our own organisations. This is a change in culture and attitude which will allow us to focus relentlessly on our vision of a healthier population, reducing health inequalities and empowering people to respect their own health.

This collaborative working also allows us to be ambitious and embrace new ways of working, including advancing digital technology. To get the most out of digital technology we must be willing to invest, have clear shared objectives across our system and be able to identify the benefits for our patients.

My take away message from this was how the success of ICSs really matters. It matters for the long-term sustainability and financial sustainability of the NHS; it matters for managing the health of the population; it matters for equality of health and life expectancy; and it matters to build a fit-for-purpose and fit-for-future health and care environment.

Linking health and wellbeing with productivity

Another opportunity to present to a room of local leaders came recently when I was asked to talk at a Future Humber event. On this occasion I was speaking to people representing business from across the Humber region, focussing on the symbiotic relationship between the economy and health.

A strong, sustainable and inclusive economy is critical to supporting people to be healthy, while a healthy population is a critical part of a productive economy. The converse is also true; an area with an unhealthy population will have a weaker economy, with potential for a ‘vicious circle’.

The Northern Health Science Alliance’s Health for Wealth report found reducing the £4 gap in productivity per-person per-hour between the North and the rest of England by 30% or £1.20 per-person per-hour would generate an additional £13.2 billion in UK gross value added (GVA).

It is clear that improving health in the Humber and North Yorkshire region would lead to substantial economic gains.

Through our Working Voices initiative we are already working with local businesses to help support their staff to improve their health and wellbeing, but there is a case for closer partnership working to improve health alongside productivity and prosperity. This is not only with our established NHS partnerships, but with businesses, central and local government, education, and voluntary sector organisations.

Our ambition is to place health at the heart of the agenda and work with partners to improve the health outcomes, and health prospects of our populations.

York Minster Carol Service: a testament to the NHS

The annual carol service held at York Minster in celebration of the NHS took place on 29 November.

This saw a choir of over 100 NHS staff from across the local region come together and provide a wonderful and warming service on what happened to be a particularly cold evening. The choir brings together a real mix of NHS colleagues, which included the ICB’s Amanda Bloor and Jane Hazelgrave.

In between the carols was a series of readings, and I was delighted to have the absolute privilege to conduct a reading as a testament to the NHS.

I was able to give my thanks and convey my pride of NHS colleagues who, as ever, do astonishing work on the frontline and back-office roles. My reading focussed on three main topics of which I am immensely proud of.

These themes are our ability to work together as a team, our willingness to work in partnership with others, to best serve those who need our support, and our compassion for others, which lies at the heart of our NHS family.

Reflecting on these recent engagements it is evident that collaboration, innovation, and the links between health and wealth are pivotal to shaping the health and wellbeing of our communities.