If success is judged by how a business overcomes its challenges, then York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust is outstanding in every way.

Just four years ago, it added 1,500 staff to its 4,500 workforce after taking on community-based health services in the area. Then, a year later, it was asked to do the same. Scarborough and North East Yorkshire Healthcare NHS Trust, located some 50 miles away, was not going to meet Foundation Trust status. With 2,000 staff based in Scarborough Hospital and Bridlington Hospital, a merger with York Teaching Hospital was the solution.

This was at a difficult time within the NHS, when huge reorganisation was happening nationwide, budgets were tight and staff satisfaction was low. However, York Teaching Hospital welcomed the announcement with open arms. “Bringing two disparate, culturally different organisations together was a massive challenge,” says Sue Holden, Director of Workforce and Organisational Development. “It was the first time that two main hospitals located such a distance away had merged, and everyone was looking to us to see if it could work.”


Positive environment

York Teaching Hospital was one of the country’s first NHS Foundation Trusts, and has built a reputation for providing speciality services that punch well above their weight. Yet doubling in size brought with it complex issues, not least how to maintain high levels of patient care while undergoing an intense period of change. It tackled this by focusing on its people—investing time and energy into creating an environment in which staff and patients could thrive.

The organisation already had much going for it. With the countryside, city and coastline all within easy reach, working and living in North Yorkshire is an attractive prospect for top professionals. Links to Hull & York Medical School also meant the hospital was, and continues to be, known for its research and innovation. “Teaching hospitals are often very large,” says Holden, “whereas our people get more exposure due to our smaller, community-orientated nature.” 

In addition, its board has a strong reputation, with clinical input included in all management decisions. Staff benefits are also well considered, including occupational health and well-being services, sports and social clubs, subsidised childcare, massage treatments, and a staff lottery with monthly prizes of £3,000 and occasional new cars.

The challenge, however, was sizable—engaging a workforce of 8,500 spread across 10 hospital sites with 1,100 beds. Communication proved key. Seminars, blogs, a dedicated YouTube channel and a monthly magazine informed staff of current and future plans, while also seeking out their views. Career opportunities were also highlighted, including training and development, mentoring and leadership coaching, and subsidies for non-job-related courses. “We don’t just focus on the roles our people are in now,” says Holden, “but develop them for future opportunities.”

Awarded NHS Board of the Year 2012, the merger has proved to be a huge success, with York Teaching Hospital recognised as a leader within the National Health Service. It continues to be so, offering acute hospital and specialist community healthcare services to more than 800,000 people living in and around York, North Yorkshire, North East Yorkshire and Ryedale.

York Teaching Hospital refuses to stand still, however. It continues to focus on creating an outstanding environment for its people and patients, where communication is open and success is celebrated right across the organisation.

“It’s an exciting, innovative and fun place to work,” says Holden. “We want to develop new services, expand the organisation, be inspired to always make improvements and provide the best patient care possible.”