Chairman of Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability reviews the past year

We caught up with our chairman, Des Benjamin, after our annual general meeting, and asked him to review the past year


Sometimes we must pause to take stock.  We are a modern hospital and home, compliant with what is expected today by regulators.  That is an important milestone in our journey.

Also this year we are also ready to start pushing forward a progressive agenda for improving the lives we are charged with caring for.

We can be quite pleased about that.  So how have we done it?

What we delivered through our people

First, we continue to deliver our “humanisation” project.  Working for over four years with our consultants Beech, we have managed to mature many of our attitudes, management skills, and training.  We have seen some good examples of how humanisation is working on the wards such as the Jack Emerson Centre. Two staff have won awards for this work, but of course we still have more to achieve.

We made good progress organising our bank nurses and made steady progress with ensuring the quality of our agency nurses.

We took the time to communicate our response to Brexit to our staff, in order reassure them and minimise uncertainty.

We have successfully recruited a high calibre executive team, and have apportioned their responsibilities in a way that I believe will serve the RHN well.

We have agreed a refinement of our medical model for the RHN based on sound working practices and we are heading towards using the medical staff across the Brain Injury Unit and the Specialist Nursing Home.

We launched our Putney Nurse scheme in February, when nine registered nurses from across the RHN started an in-house year-long training programme. It will equip them with the skills, knowledge and competence to provide high quality evidence-based care to our patients and residents.

We considered what improved outcomes we can achieve for our patients’ end of life care.  We held a successful conference on the subject, and we are improving care for our patients through the better identification of deteriorating patients by establishing an early warning system.

We delivered a wide range of patient leisure activities, and I would like to thank our 240 fantastic volunteers for enriching our patients’ lives in so many ways.

Infrastructure improvements

We agreed funding for a brand new Therapy Hub, for the refurbishment of the Drapers Ward and for the eating and social hub of the Hospital to improve our catering services.

We have also completely refurbished the therapy kitchen for patients too.

We have made a plethora of improvements across the hospital from our Finance, IT, HR and facilities people. Including improvements to Datix and the recording of clinical data; the electronic DOLs system; eRostering; eLearning; and improved the Risk Register.

We have drawn up a five-year view of our finances that takes account of our comprehensive investment plans for ward refurbishment.

We completed our Board governance arrangements and the new committees have now established themselves. Clearly this will be an on-going task as we refine them.  They are working well, the committee outcomes are better and patients are benefiting as a result.


We have seen a string of good and improving patient outcomes this year.  Our staff engagement remains high, as do levels of satisfaction with the services we provide.

Financially we are doing well and that gives us more confidence to invest. We have successfully implemented our financial plans and changed the outcome of our budget quite significantly, including securing funding for the Brain Injury Service for the next two years.

We continue to negotiate our pension position but note that our negotiating position has strengthened during the course of the year as our finances (and the fund’s) have improved.

Our fundraising team achieved their new target last year and are pushing hard on this year’s, and as much as anything they are successfully raising the profile of the hospital.

Our communications team has gone from strength to strength, something I would particularly like to commend.

Care for our patients and their relatives continues to be good.  We are seeing an improvement in both professionalism and attitude.  There has been a real drive to meet new RHN standards because people have a pride in doing so.  This was very evident in our preparation for the CQC inspection, which has been the highlight of the year for me.  It was a thoroughly good exercise and our regulator is to be thanked for challenging us to stretch ourselves, and to keep doing so.

Challenges ahead

We have to keep pushing down the agency nurse costs through improved recruitment and expansion of the nurse bank.

We must attract funding for our capital projects and deliver them to the highest standards.

We have to deliver the full solution to our medical model and FP10 issue (the technicalities of GP prescribing).

We must continue to take the humanisation agenda further into the ward environment.

We must achieve academic status for the Putney Nurse qualification.

We have to achieve our budget and cost savings targets.

Above all, we must continue to aim for the very highest standards for our patients.

Last year we set out some clear expectations, and they have largely been met.

I pass on huge thanks to all colleagues and everyone who makes such a valuable contribution to the RHN for their commendable effort.

Let us be a beacon of outstanding care for our patients.