• Nick Hulme, chief executive of East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Colchester, Harwich and Clacton hospitals, reflects on the past three years in charge and looks forward to improving care for patients in the future. He knows there is a challenge ahead and says collaborative working is vital - as are the staff who work day and night to ensure our wellbeing.

JUST over three years ago I was appointed as chief executive of Colchester Hospital.

Every day since I have seen examples of staff delivering fantastic care to the people we serve.

There is still a long way to go but over the years I have seen a significant improvement in the care we provide to our patients.

We merged with Ipswich Hospital just over a year ago and are already starting to see the benefits to local people.

Clinical teams from both hospitals are starting to work together to both improve clinical outcomes and reduce waiting times.

Given the challenges that we face going forward in the NHS and social care, we know that the current system of delivering care to local people will not meet the need.

In Suffolk and north east Essex we have become one of the country’s leading integrated care systems.

This means that organisations across the whole spectrum of health and social care are coming together to think about how we can improve care throughout people’s lives - from birth, to supporting people in their homes at the end of their lives.

This is a very different way of working and requires leaders across the whole system to work together for the benefit of the people they serve rather than the organisation they work for.

This involves representatives from primary care, community care, the acute hospitals, social services and importantly the third and voluntary sector.

We also recognise there are so many factors that affect people’s lives and that just dealing with health will not necessarily get the improvement that we need.

Where people live, whether or not they have a job, their aspirations the economic environment…they will all affect people and their families.

In an age of such uncertainty in so many aspects of our lives, it sometimes feels as though the NHS is the only thing that holds us together.

I spoke out recently about the racist and homophobic comments that I have heard in the hospital and in the community in north east Essex.

I’m aware that my comments upset some people but I was clear that I was talking about a tiny minority of the population.

I believe we should be intolerant as a society of people who make racist and homophobic remarks in any setting but particularly those that are made in a healthcare setting.

All staff have the right not to be abused when they come to work.

The comments that I’ve heard in Ipswich and Colchester hospitals have been the worst I’ve heard in my 40 year career in the NHS.

99 per cent of the comments I have received since I made my comments have been positive and I standby what I said.

I’ve also spoken recently about the work that we are doing to improve the estate at Colchester Hospital.

Something that struck me from the first time I came to the hospital was the limited facilities where patients, visitors and staff can relax and get something to eat and drink.

We have arranged a contract with a retail consortium to build a Marks & Spencer‘s food outlet, a Costa Coffee and a WH Smith’s at no cost to the NHS.

We will also be incorporating an urgent treatment centre into the new build.

It will allow people to be seen quicker when they attend our A&E department, and patients will be referred to the appropriate clinician for the right treatment at the appropriate time.

We are aware there is some disruption at the front of the hospital at the moment but this work will be completed by October.

Every day I’m humbled by seeing our staff treat the thousands of patients who rely on our care.

We often see the front facing staff, the nurses, doctors, therapists and administration staff.

We should always be mindful of the thousands of people who work behind the scenes to ensure that the care is the best it can possibly be every day.

Far too often we forget to say thank you to those staff so I’d like to take this opportunity of extending my gratitude to all of the 10,000 staff who work across the East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust.

If you have any comments about your care or ideas about how we can improve, please email me at Nick.Hulme@esneft.nhs.uk