Sir Julian Hartley visits University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust

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14 June 2024

Julian Hartley
Chief Executive

Following a scenic train ride down to Bournemouth, I arrived at University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust (UHD) and met with their chief executive Siobhan Harrington and chair Rob Whiteman. It was great to meet with them and their executive team to talk through the great things the trust is achieving and how it’s grappling with the challenges it faces.

The trust has been on a journey these last few years having merged Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals with Poole Hospital in October 2020 (during Covid-19). The trust has adopted an integrated leadership approach across all sites, with a focus on embedding the trust values and the UHD way of doing things. Additionally, system working with partners has focused on better meeting the needs of the local population.

Looking ahead, the Bournemouth site will become the hot/emergency site and Poole will be the elective/planned care site. This will be the largest planned hospital in England based on volume and case mix. This will include moving all maternity services to a new 'BEACH' building on the Bournemouth site – more on that later. What has really helped in making these changes is the support of the local councils, MPs and GPs. This really made a difference in getting local communities on board.

To support the trust's integration journey the executive team has been working on Patient First Improvement systems. This involved co-developing its values with staff: caring; one team; listening to understand; open and honest; always improving; inclusive.

The key  value that the executive team feels resonates with most people is 'caring' which not only speaks to staff but patients too, and really sets out what patients can expect when they step into the trust's buildings. We talked about the benefits of having a 'true North' and a golden thread of improvement through all services which is particularly helpful when thinking about how to tackle the challenges the trust faces.

Like many trusts at the moment, UHD is operating in a system that is experiencing some challenges. The integrated care system is forecasting a deficit, and patient flow across the system is particularly difficult due to the local social care context where care homes are closing due to workforce shortages. The trust recognises the need to look inwards and improve flow internally, something it has made great strides in recently by reducing length of stay. The team is also working incredibly hard with ambulance colleagues to reduce handover delays – another area where they are seeing real improvements. The executive team then shared their approach to improving efficiency – instead of focusing on 'productivity' or 'cost improvement' they engage staff in conversations about creating capacity to deliver more value.

Before heading back to the NHS Providers office in London I toured the new 'BEACH' hospital building currently being built. A staff member came up with the acronym – Births, Emergency And Critical care, child's Health. The build is impressive and is described as a "once in a generation opportunity" – the trust has incorporated lessons learnt from Covid-19 into the design, including adding isolation rooms in every department to help stop the spread of infectious diseases. 

I came away from University Hospitals Dorset impressed with the tenacity and ambition of the executive leadership – what's clear is the trust has a strategic plan and is pursuing this with the support of staff, patients and the wider community.


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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