Teamwork and Leadership

I was born and raised in Salford and my mother still resides in the city. I, like many of my Salfordian brethren emigrated to Prestwich!

Last night I made the journey from the borough of Bury to the borough of Salford to take my mother to accident and emergency at Salford Royal… or Hope Hospital as I still know it. My mother had lost a battle with a tin of salmon and the resulting cut was bleeding heavily due to her being on warfarin.

The care worker in my mother’s accommodation had spotted the cut on her nightly rounds and quickly phoned 111, applied pressure, elevated the wound and called me to explain that my mum needed to go to hospital.

So, there we were in Salford Royal A&E – an oasis of calm in a sea of suffering. Despite the intense stomach pains, fractures and bumps, cuts and fluttering hearts the atmosphere was somewhat serene. The whole process was managed in the same way when we finally saw our nurse, Adam, who was calm, compassionate and humoured.

The cut on my mother’s hand was a tricky one both in location and in getting the bleeding to stop and it took Adam a few goes – gently cajoling my mother, using her language whilst keeping a sense of humour and calmness. It was good to watch three nurses gather round to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of whether to use glue, a haemostat or stitches and to see which my mother would prefer. They had expertise but weren’t hiding behind the expert label.

Whilst my mother was holding the wound for 10 minutes using a haemostat I could hear clinical staff in work discussions but also laughing and joking about their day and their lives. I heard them chuckle when the woman using the tannoy forgot her lines.

As I watched and listened it got me to thinking about what makes a good team and how human this team was in its operation. I thought to myself that really good leadership remembers, particularly in public services, that we are leading human beings – with all their attendant strengths, flaws and idiosyncrasies.

In delivering compassionate care I got the sense that there was compassion between the team that night in the department – a true enabler in their endeavours.

When we got back at 2am the carer on duty ran up to see my mum in her flat. She carefully noted down in my mother’s care plan that the bandage needed to be left on for 3 to 5 days and she spent time talking to my mother and explaining that she would see her in the morning.

The kinds of behaviours I am referring to here are the crux of great care. They are the cornerstones of what makes a difference for people being support by health and social care staff. There are other features of course, but without these cornerstones of compassion, care, genuine teamwork and commitment our standards inevitably slip. Our job as leaders in health and care is to enable that culture to come to the fore respecting first and foremost that the system is made up of human beings.

I have always admired Salford’s Coat of Arms for the imagery of the bees, the miners pick and the shuttle representing the industry and collective hard work of the area but my enduring love of the crest comes from the motto – ‘SALUS POPULI SUPREMA LEX’ – The welfare of the people is the highest law.

And that is what I saw in action last night in accident and emergency.