Sunday, 30 March 2014

Posh Food that Disappoints, CEOs who Don’t, and an Eye to the Future

I went to London last Thursday. It was an early enough train to enjoy a breakfast before opening up the lap top to start working. Feeling hungry, I ordered the Vegetable Grill (Virgin Rail's answer to a full English Breakfast). When it came I was so disappointed. It wasn't even served on a proper plate, rather on the funny china tray thing that the coffee cup sits in. There was one vegetarian sausage, one fried egg, half a tomato, a flat hash brown and a dollop of what appeared to be over cooked spinach. I was less than impressed.

Unfortunately, the food at Salford’s Ceremonial Mayors Charity Dinner also disappointed. That was Friday night and the dinner was in aid of two charities, Salford Young Carers and the Salfordian, a hotel in Southport, run by the Salfordian Trust that provides affordable holidays and respite for older people who live in Salford. The dinner was held at a lovely setting, and there was a good table of people, half of which were vegetarians. The vegetable soup starter was tepid, the main course, cold couscous (not my favourite even when served hot), topped with a chickpea stuffed ravioli, which was dry and barely warm - there was no sauce.

Thankfully lots of money was raised during the evening for the two good causes, and I was able to have a cheese and pickle sandwich on my return. One of the tables at the dinner was filled with a group from the Salford Royal Foundation Trust. Sir David (Dalton) was hosting the table, and he was one of the top 50 Chief Executives recognised by the Health Service Journal last week. A panel of very distinguished judges were engaged to assess and identify the top performing chief executives (not the chief executive of the top performing Trusts).

In an era where the average time in post for many chief executives is just 700 days, the judges were looking at how great an impact has the individuals leadership had within their organisation and beyond; how effective the individual is as a communicator, and to what level is openness fostered; to what extent has the individual created an organisation that is person centred, focusing on patient care; and to what extent is the individual recognised as a mentor of other leaders or colleagues in the NHS.

And so it was great to see Andrew Foster up there in the top 50! Andrew is chief executive of the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh Foundation Trust. This is a major acute NHS Trust, and one where I am proud to be a Non-Executive Director. Andrew was recognised for his longevity, compassion, leadership and inclusiveness. He has been chief executive at the Trust since January 2007, and he and his team have done great things for the Trust in terms of improving the quality and safety of the health care services they provide. Many congratulations Andrew.

One of the services the WWL Trust runs is an eye unit in Wigan, and was I interested last week to read of how the structure of eyes might help us detect early stages of Alzheimer's disease, a major cause of dementia. To date more than 26 million people worldwide are estimated to live with dementia, and this number is expected to quadruple by 2050. The research, carried out by the Cedars Sinai Regenerative Medicine Institute, used state of the art imaging and immunological techniques to reveal eye abnormalities and changes to two areas of retina. Whilst there is much more research to be done, this study points to a very exciting new direction in growing our understanding of this condition.