With the clock change and longer brighter days where I get to arrive home while it’s still light, as well as the Easter bank holiday weekend, it does feel like winter has finally lifted – and this definitely feels like a positive in amongst some of the challenges we will face as a trust in the weeks ahead.

This week I want to focus on one thing and that is the preparations that our teams - particularly our chiefs, clinical leads, and consultants - have been busy working on this week, many of whom whilst they are on leave. They have been planning carefully - on top of the daily demand - for the next 10 days where we not only face a double bank holiday weekend, but 96 hours of industrial action followed by another weekend. I would like to thank them for their invaluable work in bringing these all together to help us ensure safe care for our patients and the welfare of all our staff working. Their leadership and commitment to put patients first is exemplary and I am personally, hugely grateful.

I think we are all clear it’s going to be difficult and an enormously challenging period, not just for us locally but across the country on an already pressured NHS. But I also know we respect the rights of our junior doctors to strike, and we will work together as one team to do everything we can to continue to deliver for our patients in their absence.

In addition to tighter operational processes, more support on wards and many other learnings, we are also strengthening our communications approach from the last strike – where we actually saw an increase in patients attending our ED. This time we will be more proactively urging people in our community who aren’t seriously ill, or need urgent or emergency care, to use alternative NHS services such as NHS 111, walk-in-centres, GP practices, pharmacies, Crawley UTC and the MIU’s at Caterham Dene, Horsham and East Grinstead. You will also see more signage at our entrances to reiterate these messages, as well as stronger alerts on our website and social media.

We will always be there for those who need urgent care, but I think we are all clear that to ensure our services are readily available for those who truly need it, we unfortunately don’t have the capacity to also deal with more minor medical needs that can be supported elsewhere. In readiness I have also been having conversations with other chief executives in our region to see how we can best work together as a system during such a challenging time to deal with some of these issues as well as the wider pressures we are all experiencing.

While I know things will feel tough, I do feel reassured from these conversations that we are well placed given everything we are facing, and I want you all to go forward into the weekend and next week feeling confident that whatever happens we can and will get through this together as a team. That is really my main message to you all today and I hope that, despite what might be to come, everyone is able to enjoy at least some time off this Easter. So with that I wish you all a Happy Easter!

Happy Easter 2023