Agenda item

(Richard Mitchell, Chief Executive of the Sherwood Forest Hospitals and NHS Foundation Trust will be in attendance at the meeting for this item to give a brief overview of the Trust’s Covid response to date and take part in any ensuing discussion)  


The Chairman and Director of Place and Communities warmly welcomed Richard Mitchell, the Chief Executive of Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, to the meeting and thanked him for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak to the Committee.


Through the Scrutiny Panel, it was important that the Council conveyed its eternal gratitude to the NHS and the staff at Kings Mill Hospital for their unrelenting care and support of local residents throughout the pandemic.  The recent extension of vaccine provision to the Council’s front-line staff from the Hospital Trust also required the Council’s gratitude and would go a long way towards protecting employees who were committed to delivering services to the people of Ashfield on a daily basis.


Richard Mitchell, Chief Executive of Sherwood Forest Hospitals Trust


Having thanked the Chairman for his opening words, Richard Mitchell briefly spoke about his role as Chief Executive at the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust which covered Kings Mill Hospital, Newark and Mansfield Community Hospitals.  He was also Executive Lead for the Mid Nottinghamshire Integrated Care Partnership whose overarching remit was to improve the integration of care and facilities within local communities.


In relation to the Trust’s response to the pandemic, overall the care service provided had been immense and staff had worked tirelessly to provide care to its patients.  However, the last 12 months had taken its toll and staff were exhausted and in many cases, emotionally spent.  The Council had been a great support to Kings Mill Hospital during the pandemic and the relationships that had been cemented would endure and be invaluable going forward. 


The Trust had provided safe care for all its patients over the last 12 months with some cancer and diagnostic care continuing wherever possible.  As Chief Executive, Richard was aware that the care needed to be for patients and staff alike and it had been a tough task for staff having to work in this challenging environment and wear full personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout.  The pandemic had also had an impact of NHS staff working at home and it had been paramount that they all continued to share experiences and have access to welfare support as required.


From any angle, the Trust could be immensely proud of what it had achieved over the last year; their PPE plan especially had been effective from the start and all staff had been able to access full PPE equipment as needed.  The excellent PPE provision had also enabled the Trust’s many partners including care homes and funeral suppliers to have access to equipment and supplies as required.


The Trust were the first to offer 24/7 vaccine provision and this was continuing, placing them in the top 5 for vaccine provision and roll out of the programme.  It was also noted, with relief, that the Trust had not lost any health care workers to Covid-19 to date and this was hopefully in small part due to the continuous supply of PPE and the support network in place to protect and care for staff during the most difficult times.


As an up to date position, the Trust was currently caring for 161 patients with Covid-19 and this had fallen from 220 patients at its peak three weeks prior.  14 of those patients were currently in intensive care of which 5 of those patients were receiving critical care but not in relation to the virus.  Therefore, these reducing figures allowed the Trust to be a little optimistic that things were moving in the right direction.  It had also been acknowledged that sickness absence had risen to around 10% from the average baseline of 4.5% with most of the additional 5.5% of sickness absence being due to Covid-19 and any resulting isolations.


In relation to the vaccination programme, by 8 December 2020, around 25,000 people had been vaccinated which equated to a quarter of Over 80s, around 20% of care homes and the remainder being mostly NHS care workers across the spectrum.  The national vaccination programme had proved effective so far and was continuing at pace.


As for a post-Covid world, the reality for the Trust was that there would inevitably be some fallout from the intense, pressured environment that staff had been working in for the last 12 months.  Staff would definitely need time to rest and recuperate from the psychological trauma of the pandemic and the loss of many lives, but this would inevitably have a huge impact on the ever-increasing waiting lists for other areas of patient care.  Cancer care treatment at Kings Mill Hospital had thankfully been continuous through most of the pandemic but diagnostic care had halted and the waiting lists for this type of treatment had inevitably increased.





Response from Richard Mitchell:

What impact has the pandemic had on the full range of other care services provided? (Cllr. David Hennigan)


There are 4 main pathways of care namely, emergency, cancer, diagnostic and elective/planned care. 


Emergency services were working well with a response time of around 4 hours but worryingly the number of people presenting in emergency had fallen (but heart attacks/strokes etc. were still happening). 


The cancer pathway had been largely protected although fewer operations were taking place due to preparation time and implementation of Covid safety measures taking more time.


Diagnostic and elective care had been hit the worst with the target of 52 weeks from referral to operation/treatment not currently being met.  No diagnostic care took place for the first 6 months of the pandemic and nationally there were over 250,000 cases waiting that were outside the 52 week target.


I had great care and support over the weekend when visiting the Ashfield Health Village for a vaccination (Cllr. John Smallridge)


Thank you, I will pass on your comments

Some over 80s residents in my Ward are worried that the vaccine will have run out and they won’t get their second dose? (Cllr. Caroline Wilkinson)

No one can say with complete certainty that the vaccines will be continually available, but it is highly unlikely that the country will run out of vaccine.


Concerns surrounding whether the vaccine programme is reaching all ethnic minority groups so how might the Council help in mitigating against this potential problem? (Cllr. Dave Shaw)

Looking at recent data from the vaccination of health care workers in Newark, there was parity in the reach of the vaccination through all groups and out of 56% vaccinated, 53% were from ethnic minority groups. 


I have not seen the Mid Nottinghamshire figures but I believe there is more of a gap in that area. All partners alike should endeavour to work with community groups to dispel any myths and make it clear that the vaccine is safe. 


A massive thank you to all your staff at the Trust for keeping us safe over the last 12 months.  I appreciate the initiatives that you are implementing to protect employees’ health and wellbeing (Cllr. Kevin Rostance)


Thank you but the initiatives are not just down to me, they are in existence because of my amazing, strong team of staff (around 5,000 in the Sherwood Trust).  I will pass on your thanks.


It was recognised early that staff needed to feel valued and supported and some of the initiatives implemented have helped but most employees just want us to focus on doing the basics well with everything in its rightful place.


I hear time after time and totally believe that the most important thing to staff is being valued and genuinely supported by their line managers. Staff must never be left feeling guilty for taking leave and recuperating.


It became apparent that some of our staff across all three of our hospital sites were suffering hardship and having to access foodbanks, so early on we set up a hardship fund and £15,000 of that has supported around 150 staff through their most difficult times to date.


Thank you for all your hard work and dedication to the residents of Ashfield.  As someone who tries to devote time to the children’s wards at Nottingham hospitals, could you advise if many children have been affected b Covid? (Cllr. Dale Grounds)


Luckily very few children have been affected by Covid.  The planned and day care children’s’ services at Kings Mill Hospital are wonderful and we have been awarded a rating of ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

Do you have any idea when staff at private heath care companies might be vaccinated? (Cllr. Dale Grounds)


No I am unfortunately not aware.

The NHS staff deserve all the praise for their achievements over the last year and in the future.  How do you intend to give staff the rest and recuperation they so desperately need? (Cllr. Jim Blagden)


It is the biggest concern we now have and the recent media narrative (mainly driven by the situation in London who are 3 weeks ahead of the East Midlands) for the NHS to move immediately to reduce waiting lists post Covid is difficult to hear when staff are already exhausted. 


It is hoped that the Government will recognise how hard staff worked and acknowledge that a longer-term plan for recuperation is needed.  Many firstly need to take annual leave without any guilt and then address any wellbeing issues they may now have as a result of the pandemic.


Also just to note, the vacancy rate at the Trust is the lowest in the Midlands and this hopefully reflects the fact that staff are appreciated, valued and supported in their roles across all 3 sites.


Following the question and answer session, the Chairman proffered a heartfelt thank you to Richard Mitchell, on behalf of the Panel, for attending the meeting amidst all the other pressures and commitments that were undoubtedly facing him at this difficult time.


In turn Richard thanked the Council and all its staff for their unwavering support to the NHS during the pandemic.


The Director of Place and Communities also took the opportunity to reiterate the growing partnership between the Council and the Trust and reaffirmed that the Council would continue to support all the NHS campaigns in relation to Covid safety measures and the roll out of the vaccination programme.



that the following recommendations be made to Cabinet:


a)    the work undertaken by the Council and the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as a partnership, to support the NHS and Ashfield residents through the pandemic, be noted, welcomed and continued;


b)    a letter of appreciation and thanks be forwarded to Richard Mitchell and all the staff at the Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust for their unwavering dedication and care to the people of Ashfield during the pandemic.