Executive Medical Director Blog: June 2023 – Dr Frankie Swords

12th June 2023

The weather is hotting up and our system remains incredibly pressured. Thank you to everyone across our Norfolk and Waveney health and care system for all your continued hard work and commitment.

I’d like to focus this month on the forthcoming industrial action.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has confirmed further industrial action will be undertaken by junior doctors in England, with a 72-hour walkout due to take place between 7am on Wednesday 14 June and 7am on Saturday 17 June.

We are expecting this period to be very challenging but we have well prepared plans and learning from previous periods of industrial action which will stand us in good stead.

As I have said before, we understand that the decision whether to participate in strike action is a difficult one. We support and respect the right of staff to take part in this lawful industrial action and our priority is keeping patients and services safe throughout.

Those of you that will be working during this period may once again be asked to work differently by your trust and I wanted to thank you for working as flexibly as you can to help keep our patients safe during this time.

As with previous industrial action, NHS staff have been working extremely hard to prepare for and mitigate disruption and we are prioritising urgent and emergency care, but there is likely to be significant impact upon local services.

Some routine operations, appointments and procedures need to be rescheduled to release staff to support emergency areas. We are minimising this as far as we can and giving as much notice to people as possible. The public should still come forward for appointments as usual unless they have been specifically contacted by that trust to cancel and rearrange it.

We are also communicating directly with our people and communities to plan ahead, to take particular care in this hot weather, and to think 111 first. During industrial action, it is particularly important that people only attend an Emergency Department if it’s absolutely necessary to ensure that care is available to patients who need it most while we are working differently.

The wellbeing of our workforce is also of paramount importance and we will continue to work with union representatives and through our local staff networks to ensure people are kept up-to-date with relevant information, know where to access support, and where to ask questions.

Our #WeCareTogether website is a single point of access to 200 of the best NHS Health and Wellbeing resources; free for all staff.  The resources include the SHAPES toolkit, practical tools developed by a Cambridgeshire GP and proven in General Practice to help improve your health and work-life balance. You can find more about SHAPES by viewing these one-minute videos.

The Resilient Team Academy also offers bite-sized videos and activities, and downloadable monthly workshops to help you create a resilient and healthy team.

Further information from Health Education England on how industrial action may impact on training for Doctors in Postgraduate Training programmes can be found here.

You can read the more detailed communications aimed directly at the public here.

Finally, a word or two on clinical and care professional leadership. I am delighted to confirm that we have now completed or made excellent progress with 6 of our 10 manifesto commitments, and I’d particularly like to thank Mike Farrah for leading some fantastic leadership workshops over the last 9 months. I am very much looking forward to being joined in this work by Dr Andy Griffiths who starts with us 1 August, but in the meantime, please do take a look at these free leadership and development opportunities with the East of England NHS Leadership Academy here.

Thank you for everything you continue to do.

With best wishes,

Dr Frankie Swords
Executive Medical Director
NHS Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care Board