Our response to Covid-19 has been, and remains, our top priority, but it’s easy to forget just how much we have achieved across so many different areas over the last twelve months. From launching new initiatives and embracing technology to being recognised nationally for the work we are doing, we should all be very proud of what we have achieved collectively and how we have continued to improve care during these unprecedented times.

Looking back, here are just some of my personal highlights from a very busy year.

Early in the year our focus was very much on our response to Covid-19 as a system and ramping up our preparations and putting the necessary arrangements in place to keep people safe, whilst keeping services running where possible.

In the spring it was both heart-warming and quite emotional to witness the start of what became the weekly ‘clap for carer’s where everyone took to their doorsteps to show their appreciation for the NHS and carers throughout the pandemic.

In April we welcomed East Surrey colleagues into Surrey Heartlands, with the merger of the four former Clinical Commissioning Groups to form the Surrey Heartlands CCG.

As the pandemic continued, partners worked around the clock to transform Headley Court into the NHS Seacole Centre to care for people recovering from Covid-19. In May NHS Chief Executive, Sir Simon Stevens, visited the centre and praised the efforts of all those involved in getting the new service up and running. 

Around this time we also saw the launch of the Surrey virtual wellbeing hub – an online portal
that helps Surrey residents access a range of mental health and emotional wellbeing sessions virtually from the comfort of their own home. The hub has gone from strength to strength and has played a crucial role in helping people stay connected and socially active during the most challenging times.

Over the summer I continued to be impressed by the creativity and innovation shown by teams across Surrey Heartlands as they worked together to launch new initiatives to keep services running in new and different ways. This included the amazing efforts of the health visiting teams supporting our Gypsy Roma Traveller community and homeless people throughout the pandemic and the acceleration of many digital services, where we helped care home residents stay in touch with loved ones by introducing video calling devices in some care homes and hospitals.

In July we held our first Surrey Heartlands Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (virtual) conference, attended by just under 100 people from across our partnership organisations, to look at how we improve the experiences of our Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) workforce and local communities. Around this time we also got the green light to move forward with our Improving Healthcare Together programme and plans for a brand new, state-of-the-art hospital in Sutton to treat the sickest patients.

Later in the summer we saw publication of the NHS People Plan and People Promise, which recognises the huge contribution made by everyone who works for the NHS. We also brought partners from across the system together for an online workshop to focus on population health management and how we can work together to address health inequalities to improve the health of our population.

In September we launched our seasonal flu vaccination programme, expanded to include more people than ever before, and we also saw some brilliant examples of how technology is changing how we deliver care for the better with the use of remote monitoring devices to support people with dementia and their carers. We also shared some of the amazing work happening by Intergenerational Music Making, which is working with schools, care homes and colleges to create music projects that improve well-being, tackle loneliness and help bring together local communities.

Our celebrations of Black History Month followed in October, with a special event hosted by our Black, Asian and Ethnic Minority (BAME) Network, where we heard about inspirational figures such as Mary Seacole, who have played an important role in the history of health and social care – and in our work today. We also shared the work happening through our Turning the Tide Board, where we are working together across Surrey Heartlands to address health, employment, racial and wider inequalities experienced by our BAME communities. 

Then last month I was hugely proud to hear that, across the system, we were finalists in five categories of the national Health Service Journal awards, which recognise the outstanding contributions being made to healthcare. We also saw Guildford and Waverley Integrated Care Partnership announced as regional winners in the NHS Parliamentary Awards for their partnership approach to end of life care.

And that brings us to December. Launching the roll out of the biggest vaccination programme we have ever seen in the fight against Covid-19 feels light a fitting way to end the year and gives us light at the end of the tunnel, during what has been a challenging time.

As we look ahead to the New Year I couldn’t be prouder of how we have come together as a system and I look forward to many more achievements together in 2021.