Thursday 30 November 2023
Salisbury Foundation Trust

Director of Improvement & Partnerships Esther Provins Goes Back to the Floor

Each of our seven Directors is spending time shadowing staff in services across the hospital as part of their ‘Executive back to the floor’ sessions. They're also blogging about their visits. This blog is from Esther Provins, Director of Improvement & Partnerships, who visited colleagues, Caroline Hosegood and James Foreman in our Post Room:

As part of our monthly executive ‘back to the floor’ session I was pleased to be spending some time with our Post Room colleagues, not having had an opportunity to work alongside them before.

As I entered the Post Room I was immediately struck by the welcoming, open and spacious environment – one of the office improvements the team has recently made to help foster good team relations. Caroline, one of two permanent post room colleagues introduced herself and we were quickly joined by James the other dedicated member of the team. I immediately felt at home and in safe hands - Caroline has worked in the post room for around seven years; and James joined about two and a half years ago. Not only are they trained to work in the Post Room, they are also trained porters (more on this later) and absolutely dedicated to the service they provide.

James took me on a whistle-stop tour of the large sorting boxes on each wall used for sorting post – I struggled to get my head around which stack is for which hospital area and which box is for which department. James told me he reordered these to mimic the route they walk each day as an aide- memoire so they form a type of hospital map - a genius idea and a great example of improvement. I tried my hand at sorting the letters as they came in – needless to say I wouldn’t win the prize for the speediest of sorting office staff, so perhaps I should leave this to the experts in future!

I was hit by the enormity of the task these two dedicated colleagues undertake on a daily basis. Caroline and James send and deliver around 5,500 letters, parcels and other post items daily – each walking over seven miles a day around the hospital site. They deliver to 100 GP surgeries and 100 395 internal departments each day – some more than once!

It quickly became apparent, though, that this role is not just a physical one – you need mental concentration to sort each item of post into the right place, check whether it is ‘clean’ or ‘dirty’ (more on this later), retain focus through multiple interruptions and remain calm under pressure - when the franking machine breaks down and there are thousands of letters to post, for example!

Caroline and James also patiently go through each item of post and weed out any that may breach patient confidentiality (by displaying their NHS number in the envelope window, for example), any that are classed as ‘dirty’ (e.g. handwritten envelopes, address not fully displayed) as these all have to be processed differently.

I was struck by the focus of James and Caroline on being determined to continually improve the service they provide – from the ideas they have around saving money to their inspirational work ethic and deep seated values – I love the expression they used over and over again “every letter is a patient”. Their people-centred values really shone through – ready to drop their post duties at short notice and go to attend to a patient in their capacity as porters – ready to support and rely on each other through good and bad days – and being real leaders in building good relationships with colleagues in every team across the Trust by their cheery manner, willing attitude and proactive “good mornings!’. I wanted to bottle up their team spirit and take it home with me.

So what did I learn? To use printed envelopes if at all possible (cheaper – almost half the cost of a handwritten envelope); to use the smallest size envelope possible (A5 is almost half the price of A4); to look at using a courier to transport patient notes (sometimes hundreds of pounds to post); and how important a friendly ‘good morning’ is, even if we are all busy and feeling pressured.

So if you're visiting the hospital and you see Caroline or James on their post round, wave and say a cheery hello - you’ll get a huge smile and a friendly response back - it will make your day and theirs.

06 January 2022

Our staff at Salisbury District Hospital have long been well regarded for the quality of care and treatment they provide for our patients and for their innovation, commitment and professionalism. This has been recognised in a wide range of achievements and it is reflected in our award of NHS Foundation Trust status. This is afforded to hospitals that provide the highest standards of care.

Person Centred & Safe





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