Rob Sainsbury added that the ongoing delays over the location of the new hospital, along with pay concerns and health reforms, were ‘unsettling’ staff.
Mr Sainsbury’s comments come ahead of a political debate about where the new hospital will be built, seven years after plans for the facility were originally mooted.
He said: ‘For the staff, I think we need to have some definitive timeline of where we’re going and a decision that will carry through to completion. It needs to be accepted and not challenged.
‘That would be very helpful to staff. It’s become unsettling to them, alongside the ongoing pay scenario and our restructuring. That combination of three things at this time is a lot for our staff to have to manage, and they are already in pressured roles.’
Mr Sainsbury said that events last summer, when some clinicians spoke out over the future hospital plans after saying they had been previously gagged, was evidence that the workforce needs to be listened to more.
He said: ‘They are asking for cultural change and we need to acknowledge there has to be a cultural change in this organisation.
‘The staff survey from the Future Hospital review shows that people believe they are unable to speak freely, and we need to do some work on that. That’s why the best way to tackle that cultural change is to have clinicians and [medical] professionals in leadership roles.’
Mr Sainsbury is currently working on plans, due to be finalised next spring, to have more health workers, rather than bureaucrats, at the decision-making table.
And the former nurse hopes his ‘shop floor’ experience will help him to empathise with what staff are telling him.
‘As a nurse, I really take pride in the fact that you don’t lose that way of thinking,’ he said. ‘You carry that with you, in terms of a situation it’s “What do I need to do?”
‘You use your nursing skills in lots of different scenarios, not just clinical care, and I think it gives me a bit of an advantage and better understanding of the system. But it can be hard because you need to recognise that there are times when you can’t make the easiest decision. Sometimes a difficult decision benefits the whole organisation.
‘In this role you need to make judgments that can be hard, whereas when you’re in nursing you want to do the best for everybody.’
Mr Sainsbury said feedback from staff about their discontent did not surprise him, and that making progress on a concrete decision on the location of the new hospital was a big part of fixing things.
‘I sit on the Future Hospital Board as a senior user, so I’m involved around design and the model of care,’ he said. ‘I came here in February, and it’s clear to see we need a new hospital. I’m encouraged that everybody sees the case for change still stands. The way the system works at the moment would become pressured if we have a long delay delivering a new facility.’
And Mr Sainsbury has also pledged to do more to listen to health workers while the political debates about the future hospital roll on into an eighth year.
‘We need to do more engagement with our staff on how things will run in future,’ he said. ‘We need to change the model of care anyway, regardless of where we build the hospital. We need to ensure there isn’t a delay in delivering the new hospital. We’ve created a model based on activity, demographics, and the risks we have now, and I don’t think prolonging that decision will help.’