I came to Salford in 1995 as a relatively green speech and language therapist to work in the department of stroke medicine. I was doing a short piece of research and worked in an environment with a mix of clinicians and academics for around 3 years… and I absolutely loved it!
In 1995, Salford was a very different place to what it is now. Old team structures existed for the medical teams, old nightingale wards were still in place, no computers and all paper based referral systems but it was a place with such wonderful spirit. And the patients were amazing, truly amazing.
I’ll never forget those people who, despite having suffered with a stroke the previous day, wouldn’t turn me away when I approached with my clipboard in hand asking “would you mind taking part in a research project to look at how people recover after stroke” and they would just be so generous with their time and support, it was incredible.
We saw hundreds of people come and do extra tests, investigations and participate in activities. People would just keep coming back and it was almost like the spirit of the community was so much bigger than the individuals themselves. That chapter in my career taught me so much about people and about their generosity.
After completing my studies I started to work much more with clinical teams who were working on improving the systems of care for people in hospitals. That was the point at which I became aware of how important it is that people work together, across boundaries, in order to provide the right care. For a long time I’d worked with people who couldn’t eat or drink after having a stroke, it was here where I realised that even though I have a particular area of interest, it might not necessarily be the first priority, for example:
If they couldn’t eat and drink, they also couldn’t take their medicines. Often that was a real problem in terms of them being able access the treatment they needed.
If they couldn’t eat and drink, they were often very distressed that they couldn’t have their cup of tea. This could have a massive impact on their psychological experience.
If they couldn’t eat and drink, they were often weak and therefore they couldn’t take up their rehabilitation opportunities.
So, what I learnt was that my bit of the equation, whilst super specialist in that area, was all interconnected and it’s only when people in the team started to come together and started to think the same way that we got the outcomes we wanted. It was at that stage I moved from being focused on the individual to being focused on the system of care for people who have had stroke.
It was my curiosity about the system of care that took me into the next stage of my career. I was successful in being able to go to America, to complete an IHI Fellowship, to learn about how you improve the health care system, and really since then, since 2007, that’s been the area in which I’ve worked.
The core of this work is the individual, but the system that surrounds them and their interactions has become something that we here at Haelo have become very skilled at understanding. If we understand the system, we can think about how we deconstruct it and how we can change it for the better.
The one thing that has become pretty clear is that the systems that we have in healthcare don’t always stand up. It’s down to the superb efforts of the people that work within the systems that make it work. If those professionals weren’t working quite as vigilantly, we may well have more errors than we actually do. It’s the people within the systems that make them work, not the systems that are effective.
My last five years has been thinking about: how can we improve? How can we get more people on side? How can we get people to work smarter, not harder? How can we improve the systems of care so that they’re not so difficult to work in? How can we do that in partnership with people that use our services? This all starts to fit together when you think about it logically.
Coming from this as a speech therapist I went back full circle. I saw first hand how all the system worked together, mostly good but sometimes disconnected, when I had a family member who unfortunately used our services towards the end of their life.
Together these interactions across Salford have driven the transformation of Haelo to where it is today. In 2017, I’m still here. Salford Royal Foundation Trust has provided me with a home for all those years that has allowed me to grow, flourish, take opportunities, to give opportunity to others, and for that I’m eternally grateful.
Haelo has been part of the fabric of Salford. It’s the spirit of Salford that’s kept me here. I’ve watched the city go from strength to strength, face challenges as a community of thriving people improving their lives and the lives of their children. It’s been an amazing journey in Salford and one that I’ll never forget.
Maxine will leave Haelo after four years at the helm, departing the organisation in a tremendous position and leaving a legacy which has never been stronger – read about our future and the Maxine’s announcement here.
Haelo will continue to provide strong locality leadership for improvement in Salford, Greater Manchester and beyond with new national partnerships. Our organisation is thriving as a result of the support we receive from our key strategic partners: Salford Clinical Commissioning Group, Salford City Council, the University of Salford and Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, to improve health and care services delivered to Salford, regionally, nationally and internationally.