After a summer of industrial action and with winter just around the corner, operational leaders from across the NHS are facing a series of significant and sustained challenges. In response to the current situation, Meet Health Events and Proud2bOps organised the NHS Executive Strategy Summit, which took place in London on the 7th of November. The Summit offered operational leaders a rare and vital space to come together and share experiences and practice, with the overall goal of finding solutions to some of these problems through collaborative problem-solving. 

Distilled Post spoke to Salma Yasmeen, the Chief Executive of Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust. Prior to her appointment in July of this year, Salma was the Deputy Chief Executive and Executive Director of Strategy and Change at South West Yorkshire Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. She was also the Chief Executive of Sharing Voices, an award-winning mental health community development charity that she developed from a pilot project. 

One solution to the sustained pressure the NHS is facing - much-touted at the Summit - was the prospect of greater care in the community. Salma appreciates the potential of an increased role for community care, but was keen to observe that “We haven’t had investment in social care for a decade now… And that means that there’s reduced capacity and capability in our communities to soak up some of that need”. Clearly, if the NHS is to rely to a greater extent on support from communities, significant investment is needed outside of the scope of the NHS. 

Salma suggested that one exciting pathway to community care might involve the development of new roles for community connectors and navigators. Particularly in a mental health context, she has observed high levels of people that need secondary support or crisis pathways. “However, if you ask our liaison teams, there’s a large number of people that have issues around housing and other areas that contribute to their distress… They’re emotionally distressed, but don’t necessarily need specialist input - but they present there because they have anxiety, depression or thoughts of self harm”. Salma would advocate for new community-facing roles that can support people to address what those core issues are. Dialogues with stakeholders outside of the system are vital; as Salma said, “the  people that helped join the dots between the different bits of the system are no longer there”. 

At such a trying time, Salma welcomed the concept of events such as the NHS Executive Strategy Summit. “It’s incredibly important… It gives operational leaders space to reflect, take a step back from the pressure of the day to day, to reflect on our own internal approach and learn from others, and to then come back affirmed that we’re as ready as we could be”. Monitoring and maintaining the wellbeing of staff across the NHS will be vital to withstanding winter pressures, and spaces such as the NHS Executive Strategy Summit help operational leaders such as Salma support themselves to then go and support their own staff. 

The conversation ended with a discussion of what resilience means this winter. “Resiliency is having joined up integrated approach which everybody understands across the system, with additional escalation points”. From her perspective as the leader of a mental health, disabilities and autism provider, Salma believes that her beds are filled nearly 20% with people who are “clinically fit to be discharged, but have got incredibly complex needs with ongoing, high levels of risk”. Managing these complex situations has required innovation, and Salma has focused on working closely with social care partners. Additionally,  “we’ve been working to strengthen the front end of services, liaison services, and we’ve invested in a clinical decision support unit”. Evidently, a joined-up approach that collaborates with partners outside of the system is key to building sustainable resilience.

To learn more about the NHS Executive Strategy Summit, visit: https://www.meethealthevents.com/nhs-executive-strategy-summit-ness-2023