Medical Director pays tribute to staff as he moves on to new post

 
Friday, 16 August 2019 Medical Director pays tribute to staff as he moves on to new post

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The Medical Director of University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT) has paid tribute to colleagues as he prepares to move on to a challenging new job.

Professor David Walker, who is originally from the Midlands and has worked for UHMBT for four and a half years, described the staff at UHMBT as “awesome” and said he would miss working for the Trust.

From working on a team that responded to natural disasters around the world and establishing health protection arrangements for the Olympic Games virus, to being part of the team that transformed UHMBT, David has always been a man who relishes a challenge.

He will move on from UHMBT in August and take up his new post of Chief Medical Officer for Mid and South Essex Hospitals.

David said: “I’m really going to miss the people here. People make organisations. There are just so many genuinely fantastic people here.

"It has been humbling for me to see how committed people are to providing health care to the local population.

“One of the things I did when I was thinking about taking the job with Morecambe Bay was to sit with a newspaper in Outpatients for the day to get a feel for the place.

“What I saw was genuinely caring and kind people, doctors and nurses going the extra mile for patients despite the negative press that the organization was getting. That compassion was what made me apply for the job. With people like that, you can change anything.

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“Now, as our reputation has improved, these members of staff are receiving the recognition they so rightly deserve. It feels as if people are winning awards every day of the week at the moment!”

David said he hoped his main legacy would be the fact that all of the recommendations from the Kirkup Inquiry into maternity and neonatal services at UHMBT had been implemented.

He said he felt the Trust had come a long way in the last few years in terms of improving quality and safety.

David’s medical career started at Newcastle University where he studied medicine and specialised in infectious diseases. This was around the time of the AIDS epidemic in the early 1980s and infectious disease medicine was often providing palliative care for young people with HIV infection. However, his main interest at the time was in the prevention of infectious tropical diseases.

He said: “I got more and more interested in preventative population health. I wanted to try to help to prevent disease happening in the first place.”

David went on train in public health and moved to Atlanta in America to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to study disaster relief and conduct research into tropical diseases.

In Atlanta David worked in the team that investigated new and re-emerging diseases. David’s skill and experience in managing natural disasters took him to the Caribbean to assist in the aftermath of the devastating hurricanes Iris and Luis in 1995. He provided logistic and medical support, disease surveillance and the re-establishment of health services after buildings and infrastructure were torn down by the hurricanes.

His career took an interesting change of direction in 1996 when he joined the leadership team appointed to manage a health protection system for the Olympic Games in Atlanta.

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In a shocking turn of events, a domestic terrorist set off a pipe bomb in the Centennial Olympic Park killing one person and injuring 111 others.

David said: “The system was tested in anger by someone who set off a bomb and a person was killed. Fortunately the response was effective in limited the impact of the attack.

David then went on to do some research work with Medicins Sans Frontiers (MSF) on tropical diseases, mostly in the Central African countries of Namibia, Botswana and Mozambique. This work was mainly on the arboviruses, a group of viruses transmitted to humans by insect vectors.

These viruses were causing viral epidemics that were sweeping across Africa. Some people who recovered from the infections were left with residual chronic arthritis similar to rheumatoid arthritis and David’s research also looked at this.

When David returned to the UK he worked as a Consultant in Communicable Disease Control and then worked in public health and as a medical director for a number of organisations. He became a Regional Director of Public Health and a Regional Health Director for various Strategic Health Authorities. Before taking on his post with UHMBT, he was Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England.

He said the post with UHMBT held a strong appeal for him: “I really wanted to get back to the front line,” he explained.

“I was very interested in healthcare systems and I thought what was happening in Morecambe Bay was most the interesting thing happening in healthcare at that moment in time – trialing integrated care using a population health approach. It was a different strategic approach to healthcare.

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“I felt that although there had been a quality disaster in the Kirkup years of 2008 to 2012, it offered a fantastic opportunity because everybody recognised that change was necessary.

“The Kirkup Report was released just after I arrived. One of my key roles was to help to implement the recommendations of the report. It was an opportunity to really improve quality on a massive scale.

“One of the attractions of coming to Morecambe Bay was that I had great confidence in the leadership team. I already knew of Jackie Daniel, Aaron Cummins and Sue Smith and I felt it was a team that could change things. It was a big career risk for me but I felt I had a chance to do something really special.

“I think we have fantastic team throughout the organisation. Clinicians from nurses and doctors to AHPs (Allied Health Professionals) have really stepped up and have been prepared to change things to make the organisation better. It has been absolutely inspirational to see this at every level. I see things every day that are remarkable.

“One of the nice things is that we’re an organisation of people that often don’t appreciate how good they really are. Coming from outside, it really shines through how good they are. In primary care as well, the relationship and joint working is better than any I’ve seen anywhere else in the country.

“It is difficult to make changes without lots of staff and resources but there are individuals that are prepared to step up and try to make things happen, even in difficult circumstances.

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“I always say that organisations with the safest and highest quality care are characterized by good clinical leadership. I would like to thank all of those who have stepped up in clinical leadership roles and have had the courage to take on those roles in difficult circumstances.

Another nice thing about leaving is that I know there is a great team who will pick up seamlessly where I left off.”

As Chief Medical Officer for Mid and South Essex Hospitals David will oversee an organization at least three times the size of UHMBT with a turnover of £950million.

David said: “It’s basically a merger of three existing hospitals in Chelmsford, Basildon and South End. It will be completely new for me. Everything will be on a much larger scale and there will be significant clinical reconfiguring. It’s a new model of care; a group hospital model with a much larger critical mass.”

David said he will miss working at UHMBT and added: “From a legacy point of view, delivering all of the recommendations of Kirkup in the timescale has been a real achievement.

“The way we do business has changed. We are more open and transparent. Every year we have attracted more doctors to work for the Trust. We’re an organization that people want to work for.

“For the future, we are now in a good place. Our geography is unusual so we’re always going to have to be innovative and flexible. We will always have to adapt and evolve, but we have the people with the skills, commitment and enthusiasm to keep on improving.”

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