Hello, my name is Brendan.

I’m the Chief Executive of Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, and the Partnership Lead for the Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven Partnership.

I joined Airedale in June this year, so it’s been both a busy and interesting time, as I’ve been learning all about my new organisation. Something I’ve been doing over the past few months is considering the impact that Airedale has had on me and reflecting on what makes it special.

So, a bit of background, for those of you who don’t know us. We are an integrated trust, combining acute and community services. Located as we are on the western frontier of West Yorkshire, our geography has an impact on us – some of you reading this may be wondering where on earth Airedale is. Our hospital is based in the Aire Valley between Keighley and Skipton, at the gateway to the Dales. Our services reach up to Settle in the north, Colne in the west, Ilkley to the east and the outskirts of Bradford to the south, some 700 square miles. Our population is spread across urban areas, tourist hotspots and rurally isolated farms and homesteads. 153 languages are spoken across our patch; our diversity is rich.

So what makes Airedale special? We are known in particular for our telemedicine services, for our Goldline palliative care service, and our approach to digital healthcare, of which we are rightly proud. But for me, it’s our place in our community. For starters the majority of our people live locally which means that the patients we care for are our families, our friends and our neighbours, from cradle to grave – and our staff are also our patients. This brings a very different dimension to providing healthcare which makes the Trust a warm, friendly place to work. Our community reciprocates this by giving us incredible support; our 350+ volunteers are a testament to this support, and community pride in ‘our hospital’ is tangible. A stand-out moment for me was last week’s launch of our mobile cancer care unit in partnership with the Hope For Tomorrow charity. The unit will travel to the furthest outreaches of our patch, providing cancer treatment to our patients in their communities – a real example of how we’re giving something back to our communities for their incredible support.

You may wonder how a smaller Trust could appreciate the problems faced by larger organisations, but we are tackling the same issues that our West Yorkshire and Harrogate Health and Care Partnership colleagues are: how to do more for less, how to keep services safe, efficient and effective, how to transform services, how to work collaboratively, how to manage the 8% increase in demand so far this year, how to manage the ask from the centre, and how to recruit, retain and look after our workforce. Reflecting on the armistice commemoration last weekend, I was struck by how the country faced the same health and social care challenges a hundred years ago; a rise in demand, a shortage of workforce, the need to modernise medicine, and the nation facing uncertainty. All familiar concerns in 2018.

However, Airedale is part of an ambitious, forward-thinking system that works well together, with a common ambition to do the best by the communities we serve. Demand has been high this summer but it’s thanks to the close working between our community, social care, voluntary and third sector organisations and mental health partners that we’ve managed to get patients home and support them to be there – delivering on the system’s aim for local people to be happy, healthy and at home. As we head into winter it’s more important than ever that we’re able to rely on each other for the support that we know we can deliver.

As well as focusing on patients and our population needs across the Partnership, we’re also keen to focus on our people. Part of retaining and growing our teams is giving our people the opportunity to develop across the system and we are working together to do this. I’ve recently started conversations with Partnership colleagues about rotating staff between our organisations, to give them a breadth of experience that they would otherwise not be able to get without changing jobs. We have work taking place collectively around attracting people to the district, into health and care jobs; we’re growing our future workforce by working closely with local schools and colleges; and we’re doing specific pieces of work to look after our people’s health and wellbeing, and reward and recognition.

The Partnership is also grasping some of our more thorny issues, as we challenge ourselves to think about how we spend the public pound differently, and truly modernise our digital thinking. Not easy issues to transform in the face of our often frenetic work lives, but doing more of the same will only get us the same, and I’m reassured by a collective support and agreement amongst our partners to challenge the status quo, and be the best that we can be. This is all part of our West Yorkshire and Harrogate Association of Acute Trusts work (WYAAT – hospitals working together).

I hope this has given you a flavour of what we’re about over this side of the patch and I’d be delighted to welcome you to visit our part of West Yorkshire.

Have a good weekend.


What else has been happening this week?