Sue Smith, Executive Chief Nurse and Deputy Chief Executive at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust (UHMBT), has been awarded an OBE in the New Year’s Honours List. The OBE is awarded for services to the NHS and patient safety.
At UHMBT, Sue is a key member of a team that has overseen the Trust’s dramatic improvement from a Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating of inadequate to good.
Sue is also a founder and director of Transform Healthcare Cambodia, which takes 40-50 UK healthcare workers to Cambodia each year to provide healthcare education, training and clinical support to local staff.
She is also a non-executive director of St John’s Hospice and co-chairs the National NHS Providers Medical Directors and Nursing Directors Forum.
Sue said: “I am delighted and overwhelmed to receive this honour. However, nobody in the NHS can deliver anything in isolation. It is absolutely dependent on people listening to and working with each other in order to get things right. I would not be in the positon to receive this honour if it was not for the amazing people that I work with. That is also true of the other organisations I work with. It is always all about the team.”
Sue was born in Morecambe and educated at Lancaster Girls Grammar school. She started her nursing career at Lancaster Hospital in January 1990. After periods as a sister and a recruitment and retention manager, Sue joined University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire as deputy director of nursing. In this role she was responsible for moving three hospitals into one site, and supported her director of nursing in developing the national nursing acuity tool called Safer Nursing Care – a measure of staffing need – which is in use in all hospitals now.
Sue’s next job was as a deputy director at Nottingham where her key emphasis was on patient safety and infection control. At this time, she also worked with the Department of Health’s National Infection Prevention Team and managed to turn around the performance of patient safety outcomes at the Trust.
In 2008, Sue was appointed executive chief nurse at North Tees and Hartlepool, the first hospital to integrate with community services, where she was also director of governance and the director of infection control. With Sue’s support, her team reduced mortality and harms and became a national exemplar. While in this role, she also introduced the modern apprentice programme.
Sue returned to UHMBT in 2013 at the height of its difficulties, to what she describes as her dream job. Sue said: “I really wanted to come and see if I could help support the staff and turn the reputation around. It was very tough. However, we have gone from a CQC rating of inadequate to good in that period. Our culture has totally changed, but the most important thing is the openness and honesty and our ability to learn from getting things wrong, through listening to service users and staff.”
Sue puts her success in her profession down to her ability to bring teams together and her focus on improving patient safety. Sue said: “I think I am good at developing teams and people. The second thing I have done – and I have done it in all my organisations – is to improve patient safety. I have done it by helping people to be open and honest and to learn and understand how they can move forward – so it is not about blaming folk; it is about really looking at things objectively.
“I brought in to UHMBT the same thing I did in North Tees, a patient safety summit, which is a weekly summit where we discuss our errors and mistakes and look at how we can stop them from happening again. I think that has enabled us to understand that we can make some fairly simple changes to what we do in order to make it safer. We are now one of the safest trusts. Mortality has been consistently lower than average here for years now.”
Aaron Cummins, Chief Executive at UHMBT, said: “I am delighted that Sue has been awarded the OBE and we are incredibly proud of her. It is very well deserved. Sue is very modest about her achievements and always emphasises the importance of her team in her success. However, the fact is that Sue has a track record of delivering and enabling transformative changes – and these changes have brought real benefits to both patients and staff.”