Last year we were proud to develop and then run a place-based leadership programme, Surrey 500, with celebration events held in February. It focused on resilience, innovation and collaborative leadership. Here are some ways that out Surrey 500 alumni found their learning through the Surrey 500 programme invaluable when dealing with the pandemic:

Debbie Hustings, Surrey Heartlands Partnership Manager, Carers

“Whilst the current crisis has come as a shock to so many aspects of our society, it has created a particularly frightening reality for those who provide unpaid care to family or friends who are elderly, disabled or who have a long term health condition. As a result of Covid-19 the majority of unpaid carers are now providing more care than before, and the need for self-isolation or shielding, closure of local services and schools, and reduced support from social care providers has had a particularly powerful knock on effect for carers.

The Surrey Carers Team, being cognisant of these issues, drew strength from the learning acquired under the Surrey 500 programme to co-create a solution through a partnership approach to improve the responsiveness of our carers support services to meet the particular circumstances of Covid. The response from partner agencies has been nothing short of exceptional with a series of new services co-designed and launched at pace to help ease the immediate concerns and anxieties of carers. This has ranged from practical issues such as support to collect shopping and prescriptions or emotional support such as 1:1 telephone counselling support. This system-led response to supporting carers has only been made possible through the relationships we built during the Surrey 500 programme. By using this approach, we have been able to build more resilience in the community which in turn has helped to improve carers’ health and wellbeing during this period.”

Robert MacDonald, Surrey and Borders Partnership Transformation Programme Manager: Children’s:

“From my own perspective my work has completely changed with the focus on COVID-19. The children’s transformation projects I was involved in were all paused in March and my work became supporting incident management groups and now being part of SABP’s Silver Support team as part of the organisation’s controlled response.

I think the COVID experience has made me even more aware that cross-team working is so important, much more effective and interesting than working in silos where duplication is inevitable. I hope one of the main learnings from this will be that meetings really can be shorter, sharper and less dominant in our workplace and we can interact more between teams in informal and formal settings to develop as an organisation and system. This isn’t really a training piece, just organisational culture and I hope a more positive and rewarding future is possible from this.

I think specifically the exposure to a lot of colleagues from different services in Surrey 500 and requirement to discuss, work, plan and share with them has helped me to be resilient to these times. The role I’m doing now has involved a great deal of work with a number of colleagues I’ve never even met in person before and I’ve been perfectly comfortable. It is not a specific tool from Surrey 500 but the experience and better understanding of how to respond to different situations.”

Rheanna Mitchell, Head of Planned Care Commissioning, Guildford & Waverley Integrated Care Partnership

“It was really exciting to be part of a whole system response to mobilise the use of the virtual consultation platform Attend Anywhere. Quite quickly, in the wake of the Covid crisis, we naturally began to rally and align as a system to deliver urgent responses. And whilst much of the experience was positive, I was also able to draw on my learning and reflections from my Surrey 500 experience to navigate some of the more challenging twists and turns.

“The key learnings for me, and areas where I really used my Surrey 500 learning included:

  • Do create formal opportunities for system working to flourish – we set up a Heartlands wide forum to facilitate regular conversations about what was going well and what problems were arising. This regular catch up was really valuable as a tool to quickly share learning and encouraged collective troubleshooting – it also meant there was a co-ordinated, central point, to minimise duplication or tangential working
  • Do take time to manage important relationships – we aligned ‘relationship managers’ to maintain a closer link to key stakeholders during the response to sustain a secure connection and make sure that priorities were clearly understood at the appropriate level
  • Do try to understand different perspectives – we listened to people across different organisations to understand what their needs were and then tailored solutions to meet these.
  • Do demonstrate positive behaviours – at times there was a lot of pressure and we worked hard to model positive systems behaviour, building relationships on mutual trust and respect
  • Don’t always feel the need to seek permission – instead creating a sense of empowerment to do the right thing   
  • Don’t be afraid to ask the ‘stupid question’ – becoming comfortable in a systems environment helped me to feel confident enough to ask for explanations because in a system, there are naturally varying areas of experience and expertise, and that is what makes the coming together of minds so helpful.“



Alyson Smith, Surrey Heartlands CCG Commissioning Manager, Urgent and Integrated Care

“Surrey 500 helped me build relationships, which was particularly valuable as a new starter to the CCG. Through discussions I took up the opportunity of linking with a colleague who works within mental health crisis services, and invited her to join a project to improve multi-disciplinary responses to support people who frequently present to A&E.

“This work will ensure in the short term,  specialist crisis services are promoted by A&E and emergency response staff, also in medium-long term, that our frequent attenders with mental health needs, make greater use of  support within community services. We have begun this work, and are now beginning to plan its continuation, following a pause to ensure COVID response was prioritised.”