Archive for September, 2016

Partnership and Public Health

Monday, September 26th, 2016

You can tell that summer is well and truly over, as the diary is crammed with unmissable events and not enough time between them. One of the highlights this week was the Leaders and Chief Executives’ Meeting on Thursday when all of the council leaders and chief executives from Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent gathered to discuss the most pressing issues. For the past 18 months, it has been dominated by devolution, and the question of what we are going to do, if anything. With that subject currently on the back burner, at least in the county areas, we had the opportunity to look at other issues – Brexit, the Health Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP), and the planned full retention of Business Rates. There is a huge amount to do, but I sense that there is a shared willingness to do it.

Monday evening was the opening of the Centre for Health and Development (CHAD) at Staffordshire University, which we’re sponsoring with Stoke-on-Trent City Council. It was a very interesting event, with a lecture by Professor Sir Michael Marmott based on his book, “The Health Gap”, about the effects of economic and social inequalities on health outcomes. He’s a fascinating man, who, like all good public health professionals, is focussed on the evidence rather than opinions and anecdotes. What he says makes uncomfortable listening for those of us who are charged with delivering public health, and it spurs us on to greater efforts.

Thanks to all who came to this week’s Business Brief – it was indeed a standing room only event as I hoped that it would be. I was asked by a colleague in HR whether there was any way that it, or something like it, could reach a wider audience. After a brief discussion, we came up with the idea of a webcast of the event which colleagues could watch from their desks, perhaps with a means of asking questions through the intranet or by text. I’d value any thoughts from readers before we proceed.

Finally, please make sure you complete the staff survey. We’ve had a good response rate so far, with over 1,700 colleagues telling us about how they find working here. There are two weeks left to complete the survey, but don’t leave it until the last minute!

Being prepared

Monday, September 19th, 2016

We’ve got Exercise AURORA next week, our contingency exercise which takes place every two years. This year’s scenario is space weather, which is a possibility that could take down all of our mobile communications. I’ll admit that it’s a remote possibility, but, as with all of these exercises, it’s the opportunity to plan outside of one’s experience that is important, not the scenario itself. The danger with exercises, as one who has spent too many weeks in the field, usually in damp German woods, is that we practice what we have always done, and don’t test ourselves. I think that Exercise AURORA will be an excellent opportunity for us to test ourselves, so that, the next time that we need the CCU for real, we will understand our roles and capabilities. If you’re involved in the exercise, please do give it the time and effort that it deserves. Next time, it might not be an exercise.

I’ll follow up with an email to the Wider Leadership Team and Operational Management Team, but I’d value a good attendance at this week’s Business Brief. I know that many of you will have become tired of my voice, and are pretty sure that you know what I’m going to say, but this is our “back to school” brief, and we have some important updates on how we’re doing with the spending controls and other important issues. I also want to reinforce the messages which I’ve made recently on attention to detail, the office moves into SP1 and 2, and where we’re going as an organisation.   It would certainly be more effective if it were a standing room only event! See you there.


Brexit – nationally and locally

Monday, September 5th, 2016

“Nothing is ever as good, or as bad, as it first appears” is a maxim that I learned from operational service in the Army, and it’s been reassuring to learn that it’s true more widely, including as a chief executive of a county council.  Brexit hasn’t made the economy collapse overnight, and it seems clear that there isn’t an extra £350 million available every week for the NHS.  Our job in Staffordshire is to calmly assess what it means for us, maximise the advantages and avoid the pitfalls.

I spent Thursday in London in conversation with a number of senior people in government and the LGA, and it seems that we are at least up with the leaders in thinking, and probably a little ahead. Philip Atkins and I have written a short paper on the subject, attempting to quantify what Brexit means for the county – not just the county council, but our residents, the businesses and our public services. It was a pleasant surprise to learn that this is in line with government thinking; they are taking a place-based view, rather than listening to lobbying from sectors nationally. If that is maintained, it plays to our work strongly. The Brexit Ministry is assembling a “Team UK” to draw on the best of the thinking nationwide, and we will do our utmost to ensure that we are part of the debate.