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Listening and Learning – Our Journey in Lanarkshire

24 Sep 2021

Neena Mahal MBE will be speaking at the President’s Conference on 6-7 October 2021. In this blog Neena Mahal previews her talk giving insight into the challenges of translating policy into practice to improve the health and wellbeing of healthcare staff.

Neena Mahal MBE
Chair, NHS Lanarkshire

Let me introduce myself. I am Neena Mahal and I am delighted to have been invited to speak at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow President’s Conference in October 2021 on Time to Heal: Recovery and Renewal.

I am privileged to be the Chair of the Board of NHS Lanarkshire, the 3rd largest Health Board in Scotland covering a population of just over 660,000 people and 12,000 staff.

As Chair, I have been leading the Board through the response to Covid-19, both in terms of overseeing the delivery of services and in ensuring that our staff have been supported in their health and wellbeing as they have adapted with courage and resilience to these challenging times.

I am experienced in leading strategic change and am particularly passionate about ensuring that the way we do things, the culture and values of the organisation are just as important as what we do.

NHS Lanarkshire has been disproportionately affected by Covid-19 partly due to the underlying health inequalities existent in our communities. Many of our staff live within our local communities and although I thought staff wellbeing was an important aspect of how we already operated, Covid -19 brought home just how much we still needed to do. There was incredible anxiety about the uncertainty that lay ahead and we soon realised we needed to do something very different.

The significant emotional toll faced by staff who witnessed distress and death at an unprecedented level cannot be underestimated. Compassion, kindness, going over and above what could be expected were all in place for the often lonely patient, distanced from their loved ones but what about those staff who themselves needed time to heal, decompress and recover from what they were dealing with at work and in their own lives. We must also not forget that staff were also affected by the terrible loss of loved ones and in the case of Lanarkshire, very sadly colleagues who lost their lives to this dreadful pandemic. How could we support them in their grieving? What did we need to do in practical terms as a Board to give staff a safe space to share their stories and feelings and show that we cared?  

As a leader, it is important to me that our commitment as a Board to nurturing an inclusive culture which values staff wellbeing and the contribution staff make, is clear and recognised throughout the organisation.

“Listening and Learning – our Journey in Lanarkshire”
At the Conference I will be outlining our journey in Lanarkshire from where we were pre -Covid to how staff health and wellbeing is now at the forefront of the way we work. I will be sharing insights into the challenges in translating policy into practice. As an organisation we recognised that we needed to understand the different needs of our staff. Through this learning from our engagement with staff, we were able to recognise and respond to their diverse needs and perspectives. Understanding what was getting staff through this adversity and what really matters to them has been essential in providing support which makes a difference. Taking a collaborative and co-produced approach has been a key driver in helping staff to look after themselves and look after each other. However, this journey has not always been easy and I will highlight some of the hurdles we have encountered.

Many unknowns and challenges await us as we look to the future. Continuing to respond to Covid, system pressures and changing public expectations are all factors we need to address.

Our ambition now is to continue to make the cultural shift to develop and provide the necessary support for staff wellbeing in a systematic, consistent, sustainable and meaningful way. We as Boards and leaders across the NHS must learn from what has gone before us and build on what’s strong. We must prioritise the health and wellbeing of all staff so that it is a consideration in all decision-making, it is embedded into the culture of the organisation and not just seen as a response to the crisis we have gone through.

We still have a long road ahead of us and I would want to take this opportunity to offer my heartfelt thanks and appreciation to all staff across health and social care for their incredible professionalism, commitment and dedication.

Neeha Mahal will be a speaker at the President’s Conference Time to Heal: Recovery and Renewal on 6-7 October 2021. The full programme for the President’s Conference can be found here.

Category: Wellbeing

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