Sir Julian Hartley visits Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust

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31 July 2023

Julian Hartley
Chief Executive

My visit to Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust was positive and inspiring. Frimley Health is a large acute and community provider with over 12,000 full time equivalent staff members working across three hospitals: Frimley Park, Heatherwood, Wexham Park, and a number of community sites. I was shown the new Heatherwood Hospital in Ascot, a £100m planned care facility that opened in March 2022, which had just received GIRFT (Get It Right First Time) accreditation.

It was great to meet with chief executive Neil Dardis and his team to discuss the key challenges the trust faces and to see the great work it’s doing, particularly on elective recovery, improvement and staff engagement and wellbeing.

I entered the hospital through a bright, open entrance hall. I then took a tour with members of the executive team and met many members of staff. Richel, who showed me around the endoscopy department, explained what the trust’s doing to practice greener endoscopies through its sustainability projects. In this department, there was also a board dedicated to staff wellbeing; the first of many examples I saw of how the trust commits to look after staff and boost morale. All the staff I met placed a strong emphasis on how it puts workforce first, highlighting the bright staff room with large windows, a proper coffee machine, ping pong tables and the championing of reasonable work adjustments. All of this contributes to energising staff and improving wellbeing.

We then moved to the urology department, passing a motivating 'VIP' (Values into Practice) board, which showcased awards for teams or individuals who show exceptional dedication to the trust’s values (another example of how the trust promotes staff wellbeing and recognises good work). Alison gave me a tour of the department and explained that efforts to promote staff, as well as a reputation for being a place to work, have attracted applicants and increased retention.

Next, Colin proudly told me how the new hospital has reduced length of stay by streamlining the discharge process. When visiting the pre-assessment unit, colleagues said patients are often pleasantly surprised to go home the same day and say that they enjoy coming to Heatherwood. The hospital have introduced a pre-operation phone call three days beforehand from the receptionist. Patients are told, "you will see me on the day", which reassures them.

After seeing the rest of the hospital, including ophthalmology (where waiting lists have gone down from 8 months to 2-3 weeks) radiology and other departments, the visit ended with a stimulating conversation about some of the challenges ahead, one of which is the need to ensure that there is no delay in the New Hospital Programme (NHP) and maintaining safety at the current Frimley Park site affected by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC). Colleagues also highlighted difficulties around mental health patients presenting to A&E as well as requiring admission due to limited alternatives. Other challenges discussed were disparities in the population they serve, such as extreme levels and variations of social deprivation, as well as an increased level of patient .

Overall, the visit was filled with positivity, and it was clear that the staff I met were proud to work at Frimley Health. This was truly inspiring. Furthermore, the visit highlighted the enormous difference that a functioning estate, a culture of continous improvement and an advanced digital infrastructure makes to staff morale and patient experience. While I’m mindful of the struggles and challenges the healthcare service faces, my visit to Frimley Health was a strong reminder of the excellent work that trusts do, putting patients and staff at the heart of everything.




About the author

Julian Hartley profile picture

Julian Hartley
Chief Executive

Sir Julian Hartley joined as chief executive in February 2023, having been chief executive of Leeds Teaching Hospitals since 2013, where he led a major programme of culture change and staff engagement to deliver improved quality, operational and financial performance.

Julian’s career in the NHS began as a general management trainee and he worked in a number of posts before progressing to a board director appointment at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust.

In 2019 Julian was asked to be the executive lead for the interim NHS People Plan, having previously worked as managing director of NHS Improving Quality, and in 2022 he was awarded Knight Bachelor for services to healthcare in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. Read more

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