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Annual Public Meeting 2021 minutes

Wednesday 29 September, 6pm to 7pm, Microsoft Teams virtual event

Welcome

The Chairman welcomed around 150 foundation trust members, members of staff and members of the public to the Trust's Annual Public Meeting. Those with a connection to Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals were joining this meeting for the first time following the merger earlier in the year.

The Chairman recognised the extraordinary circumstances of the past year and the lengths that colleagues across the organisation had gone to in managing the COVID-19 response and recovery. The Chairman publicly recorded his thanks to Martin Shaw, the Trust's Chief Financial Officer, who would retire at the end of the year. Dr Ian Abbs was congratulated for his appointment as substantive Chief Executive following the appointment of Amanda Pritchard as the new Chief Executive of NHS England.

Review of 2020/21 and our future plans

The Chief Executive reflected on another challenging year for everyone in the NHS, at Guy's and St Thomas' and across the Trust's local communities. He sent condolences to the families and friends of those who, despite the Trust's best efforts, had died over the past year, including from COVID-19.

The impact of the pandemic on normal operational performance had been significant, but staff had again worked incredibly hard to keep as many of the Trust's services running as possible, using virtual technology where appropriate. The Trust's financial position in 2020/21 had remained stable, with a small annual surplus of £227k reported. This was largely due to the new national financial framework which had protected the Trust from the loss of income from elective and emergency care while the focus was on responding to the pandemic.

The Trust remained committed to making the organisation an inclusive, fair and welcoming place to work for all staff. Whilst there remained more to do in this respect, comprehensive plans were in place to ensure better and fairer outcomes in access to learning and development, recruitment opportunities and career progression, and to improve diversity in senior roles.

The merger with Royal Brompton and Harefield had taken place on 1 February 2021 and the new Trust was now one of the largest foundation trusts in the country with more than 22,700 staff and an anticipated annual income of over £2.4 billion. This presented an opportunity to create a centre of international excellence to improve the treatment and research of heart and lung disease for the benefit of patients now and in the future.

Significant progress had been made in some of the Trust’s other major strategic programmes to improve and futureproof quality of care. These included a new partnership with King’s College Hospital and SYNLAB UK & Ireland to deliver pathology services across south east London, the continuation of plans to expand the Evelina London Children’s Hospital, a new £50 million imaging centre on the Royal Brompton site and an ambitious electronic health record system with Epic as the main supplier.

Council of Governors’ Report

The Lead Governor, Heather Byron, paid tribute to Trust staff for their passion, conviction and selflessness during such a challenging year and applauded the role of the Trust in providing such a breadth of initiatives to support the health and wellbeing of staff. Governors were proud in how the Trust had balanced caring for patients in the most difficult of circumstances whilst maintaining a focus on its future plans. It would be vital to not lose sight of the lessons learned and the improvements the Trust had made during the pandemic, and work to provide even better outcomes to patients.

The Council of Governors had grown in size following the merger, and governors who had joined from Royal Brompton and Harefield had brought energy, diversity of thought and healthy challenge to meetings. Governors who had joined following elections held earlier in the year had also brought a fresh voice and perspective that would benefit the Trust going forward.

Our COVID-19 response

Dr Simon Steddon, the Medical Director, gave an overview of the Trust’s clinical and operational response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the numbers of patients that had been treated. The survival rates of patients with COVID-19 treated in the Trust’s hospitals were amongst the best in the country. The Trust had worked closely with partner organisations during the pandemic and had also provided significant mutual aid. Throughout the pandemic, the Trust had been actively engaged in research into COVID-19 and had made a significant contribution to the development of new diagnostic tests and treatments, and vaccines development.

The Trust was now focused on treating the large numbers of patients whose appointments had been delayed during the pandemic, including those on cancer pathways. Good progress was being made with this, particularly in reducing the number of patients who had waited over a year for treatment, although the Trust was experiencing significant operational pressure from levels of emergency attendances, which had risen to pre-pandemic levels.

Avey Bhatia, the Chief Nurse, talked about the scale of the redeployment programme that had taken place to ensure the Trust could significantly increase the number of critical care beds to support those patients most affected by COVID-19. The vaccination programme had been hugely successful and the Trust was now supporting delivery of the vaccine boosters. The efforts made by staff in responding to the pandemic had led to an exhausted workforce and some of the initiatives that the Trust was taking to support staff health and wellbeing were described

Dr Richard Grocott-Mason, Managing Director of the Royal Brompton and Harefield Clinical Group, paid tribute to how staff at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals had handled the pandemic and described the work that was being done to ensure patients could receive the treatment that had been delayed over the past year. The merger had gone extremely smoothly and he described how his staff had been warmly welcomed into the Guy’s and St Thomas’ family. There was excitement about the opportunities going forward to improve heart and lung care for both adults and children.

Question and answer session

Meeting attendees asked questions of the Trust Board, including about:

  • performance levels following the merger between Guy's and St Thomas' and Royal Brompton and Harefield in February 2021
  • progress with delivering a number of the Trust's largest capital programmes and the impact of departmental capital expenditure limits for foundation trusts on the Trust's strategic objectives
  • the Trust's approach to treating undocumented migrants in the NHS
  • the financial impact on the Trust since Viapath was established in 2009, and how this had contributed to service improvements
  • whether the Trust had been impacted by the recent fuel crisis
  • how the Trust was helping staff through the continuing difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic

Close

The Chairman thanked those attending for their support and involvement.