Guest blog: Liz Harrison, Non Executive Director

27 November 2020

What “New Normal”? It doesn’t exist!

What a year! It started with promise, there were to be the Olympics for one thing.  First there were storms, then COVID-19. Everything changed. Overnight. Lockdown, school closures, self-isolation, social distancing – many of the things that make human relationships thrive were forbidden.

As individuals we have all had to confront difficulties.  Whether it be feelings of loneliness and isolation, the blurring of home and work boundaries, feelings of overwhelm, home-schooling or just fear – plain and simple. Nobody has had the same experience.  It has been said that we are all in the same storm but in different boats.

CWP has faced huge challenges to continue caring for our patients and our communities.  I was recently fortunate to be able to attend the virtual Annual Members Meeting and was struck by the passion, not only from the speakers (I expected that!) but from the members, governors and volunteers. It was apparent how hard work and innovation has made a huge difference in the face of the COVID challenge.

The Little Book of COVID-19 Best Practice is an inspiring celebration of the most exciting and innovative work we’ve achieved over the past year to ensure the best possible care for the people we serve.  If you haven’t read it, please do. (Little Book of COVID-19 Best Practice

It includes many examples of gold standard clinical practice within the fields of mental health, physical health and learning disability services in the face of a completely changed contact environment.

But stop. Take a moment. Recognise your own personal achievements. Everyone is different and everyone has played a part in a phenomenal response which is clearly appreciated by the communities we serve.

As we lived through the first lockdown and beyond, people started to try to deal with what was termed the “new normal”.  Not only was there nothing normal about it, but it was also constantly changing. 

The truth of the matter is that we are all living through constant and rapid change. We must all become comfortable with innovating and refining both what we do and the way that we do it.  Our Little Book of COVID-19 Best Practice encourages us break down organisational and geographical barriers and embrace a meaningful culture of learning. It’s a marathon, not a sprint and so we need to find a way of working that is sustainable.

Recently, at Board we learned about the early results from the COVID-19 evaluation project. This project, commissioned in May 2020, has had more than 6000 responses reviewing new ways of working, as well as the nature and effectiveness of changes in service design, delivery and impacts on you and patient experience of care. Unsurprisingly, it is clear that it has been far from plain sailing.  But there are some positives, notably effective multi-agency working and where remote consultation aided increased contact frequency (also important caveats to this area where face to face contact is key). 

We also noted that staff wellbeing forms a huge backbone within the organisation and as a Board, we were delighted to approve the Birthday Annual Leave Scheme. This is an additional day of annual leave for all staff in 2021 in recognition of their continued hard work and dedication through the pandemic.

Staff are also soon to receive a dedicated one-off wellbeing magazine. I’m told that the magazine will be packed with interviews, articles and features covering a range of wellbeing topics from looking after your mental health while working at home, to tips for looking after yourself if you care for others.  There will be staff stories relating to their own personal mental health challenges and also first-hand experiences from staff working to help others through the various pathways available through CWP.  The magazine is due to be delivered early December so I urge colleagues to keep an eye out for it.

So, thank you.

Thank you for all you have done and all you continue to do.  It has been inspiring joining CWP and seeing what you have achieved this year. 

And thank you for the opportunity to be a part of Team CWP.  I want to make a difference to the health and wellbeing of the communities we serve. And I believe that, together, we will.

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