Sir Julian Hartley visits Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust

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08 March 2024

Julian Hartley
Chief Executive

The Royal Surrey NHS Foundation Trust is a leading general hospital, with integrated community services and is a specialist centre for cancer services and treatment. The trust provides core hospital services to a population of close to half a million people across Surrey and cancer services to a population up to three million people across Southeast England.

On arrival, I enjoyed a discussion about challenges and opportunities facing the trust with its executive team, before visiting the trust’s main hospital site. The trust faces familiar challenges of increasing demand for services and resulting operational pressures, and the impact of recent strike action. Despite these challenges, I was impressed by the work taking place, particularly across integration and collaboration, quality improvement and innovation.

Royal Surrey takes a system-first approach, embracing the benefits of system working as a member of Surrey Heartlands Acute Provider Collaborative. The provider collaborative, established in 2023, brings together three acute trusts and mental health providers and recently agreed seven collaboratives' programmes: maternity and neonatal, paediatrics, stroke, elective, anti-cancer, endoscopy and mind and body.

The trust is on a journey to embed quality improvement from board to ward. From participating in NHS England’s ‘vital signs’ programme, an initiative to support providers and systems in removing waste from day-to-day activities, Royal Surrey now takes this learning into embedding their own ‘achieving excellence’ programme. This involved all staff trained in quality improvement basics, undertaking a ward accreditation programme and a regular awards system to recognise positive practice.

Innovation is central to the trust’s specialist cancer services. I visited its oncology service, stopping first to see the Ethos machine, a new state-of-the-art radiotherapy linear accelerator, which offers adaptive radiotherapy treatment for patients in a relaxing suite focused on improving patient experience, and then its teenage and young adult cancer service. This innovative service is designed for people aged 16-30, offering cancer treatment, care, support and a more social environment for younger patients.

Arriving at theatres I saw pioneering use of robotic surgery. As the second largest provider of robotic surgery, Royal Surrey is leading the way in national and international training, and last year set a record for the number of robotically assisted prostate removals in a single day.

The final stop in my visit was to the Cedar Centre, a purpose-built centre providing busy diabetes and endocrinology clinics in a calming environment. I was impressed by the focus on patient experience, which spans the physical environment to improving the everyday lives of patients through sector-leading research.

I left Royal Surrey reflecting on truly pioneering care delivered across the NHS. Despite ongoing challenges facing the health system, trusts are embracing innovative technologies and techniques, and at Royal Surrey I saw this in the facilities, dedication of staff and innovation across everyday services.


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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