Message from Gail Smith, Interim Chief Officer, Angus HSCP

Since the end of February 2020 we have been responding to the consequences of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Little did we know that in June we would still be required to respond and adapt to the impact that this is having on us all locally. Our Angus Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) continues to exhibit innovative solutions and show incredible resilience which enables us to continue to deliver essential services.

I would like to repeat my previous messages of sincere thanks for the continued commitment, resilience and professionalism to all staff working across Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, our partnership agencies and our hosted services, in these extremely challenging circumstances, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. I would also like to thank everyone who lives in Angus for their continued understanding and support. This situation touches all our lives and I would particularly like to share my condolences for anyone who has lost a relative or friend as a result of COVID-19.

This is a rapidly changing situation and we have continued to adapt and respond at an unprecedented level to ensure we can deliver high quality compassionate care and support. The pace and extent of change would have been unimaginable three months ago. The urgency to react has been the fuel to spark ingenious solutions.

Our Executive Management Team has worked tirelessly to put in place an effective mobilisation plan. We have also ensured we have a supportive workforce plan to respond and deploy staff for the changing demand. You have certainly demonstrated that when nothing is certain, anything is possible. What is important for us now is to ensure that the positive transformative changes are not lost, and we make sure that we take steps to lock-in these improvements.

We are still learning about the virus but it is widely recognised that we will be living and working with COVID-19 for some considerable time to come. As we transition from the ‘response’ phase into the ‘recovery’ phase we need to further adjust to new ways of working. As you will anticipate, we will use The Scottish Government’s Framework for Decision Making to guide us through this next phase.

We have started to plan ahead, with a special Recovery focussed Strategic Planning Group and Senior Leadership Team Meetings with the same focus. These meetings have considered the challenges of working through COVID-19, the positives, a review of where we are now, and different ways of working that we wish to carry forward into the future.

Thank you to everyone who completed the online staff survey which has helped us to understand more about how you have been evolving and adapting your working practices as we navigate through the new COVID-19 era. We asked people to share innovative and flexible solutions and describe their experiences. People told us about:

  • Your feeling of pride in the way we have worked together within AHSCP and with our partner organisations to seek innovative solutions to a range of issues, with a noticeable ‘can-do’ attitude leading to and removal of bureaucracy to enable faster decision making. For example, we have innovatively supported NHS Tayside employed nurses who volunteered to work in an independent care home.
  • The way people have embraced new ways of working e.g. holding virtual meetings via Teams and Zoom and many transformation initiatives that had been in the planning/early implementation stages for many months or years have been adopted e.g. Near Me consultations and home mobile health monitoring.

These changes have led to a fundamental rethink of both the pace and level of change that is possible. It is clear that our workforce is our most valuable resource and we are trying to do everything we can to protect people’s health and wellbeing, especially as people are telling us about the challenges of working more remotely. It is important to clarify that our workforce includes volunteers, unpaid carers and all those who work in the independent sector, whether they care for people in their own homes or in care homes. Two weeks ago we celebrated National Volunteer week and last week we celebrated Carers week. The difference that volunteers and unpaid carers make to people’s lives has taken on an even greater significance since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I would like to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you.

We are making sure that we act on feedback collected by our service users, unpaid carers, volunteers and members of the public.

Some of the new ways of working that are emerging may yet prove to be the silver lining of the COVID-19 cloud. For example the use of technology has been expanded at a pace previously not thought possible.

It is clear too that lock-down is having many unintended consequences on people’s physical and mental health. This is especially so for people who are shielding or for those who are vulnerable and who may be living alone. The Humanitarian Assistance Angus Response Team (HAART) is doing a tremendous job in providing support to the people who need it most.

Many people are asking ‘what will normal look like?’ While no one can say how long this crisis will last, what I do know is that we must face the fact that we need to change the way we work. ‘Going back’ to the way we were before COVID-19 is not an option. We need to start the process of thinking about a ‘new normal’ in the context of living and working with continued social distancing, in addition to maintaining infection prevention and control measures. I know that adjusting to new ways of working will affect different people in different ways at different times. Now, more than ever, we need to look after ourselves and each other.

As we look ahead we remain committed to the vision for Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, the aims of our ambitious Strategic Plan and to progress the Angus Care Model. I consider this time of recovery as a unique window of opportunity to truly and rapidly transform. We need to maintain the positive elements of the COVID- 19 driven transformation and build resilience for future waves. It is important that we make sure that whatever we do remains focused on doing the right thing for the people of Angus and is both achievable and affordable. This is our chance to reinvent and create an even better Angus Health and Social Care Partnership which makes even more of a difference in the way it actively cares.

I continue to be immensely proud to be the Interim Chief Officer for Angus Health and Social Care Partnership throughout this time. Thank you all for your outstanding work, but more importantly please look after yourselves, your families, friends and colleagues. Please take the time off that you are entitled to and stay safe, healthy and well.

Gail Smith
Interim Chief Officer
Angus Health & Social Care Partnership