Lesley Watts has spent 40 years in the NHS, as a midwife, manager and CEO. Her experience, resilience and inspiration comes from a passion to deliver the very best care to patients, alongside a supportive and compassionate environment. Over the last two years Lesley has taken two hospitals and their services and transformed them into a financially stable, high quality and caring NHS Foundation Trust.
No other CEO has managed to merge two very different hospitals on budget, on time, take them both from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘Good’ and achieve ‘Outstanding’ for use of resources. Her leadership has brought together differing and complex cultures into a truly unfailingly kind workforce, which even the CQC inspectors found ‘inspirational’. The most recent NHS staff survey showed the greatest gains in the motivation and engagement of staff and nearly 80% recommending the Trust as a place to work and receive treatment.
Despite the huge pressures on budgets and record demand, Lesley has consistently led the Trust to hit national targets, as well as implementing a new electronic patient record system without impacting on the Trust’s performance, the quality of care or staff morale. Lesley helps her staff make miracles happen in the NHS!
Lesley set herself the toughest challenges for the business; to deliver the highest quality patient centred care - improving performance and lowering costs. She is committed to providing the greatest value and embracing new ideas to ensure the effective use of resources which will give all patients the best possible care.It is also hugely important to Lesley to be the employer of choice, and have a happy and engaged team at all levels.
Her goals are not just for the Trust but for the population she serves to guarantee a better integrated health system, which will result in quicker and more accessible services for all our communities. Lesley, as Provider Chair for North West London STP, strives to be a collaborative partner in the wider NHS to enable our patients’ needs and wellbeing to be at the heart of the Nation’s health service.
Lesley’s leadership has delivered impressive results on performance and the quality of care, which has not only been recognised by the CQC but also by her peers, stakeholders, and even the HSJ which reported recently on the Trust’s influence: “Plans for leading a potential hospital chain or integrated care system would be more likely to be led by Chelsea and Westminster”. The numbers, however, speak for themselves:
• One of the best mortality rates in the country, and in the top 10 for A&E waiting times and for 62 day cancer referrals.
• Over 90% of friends and family recommending the Trust, NHS Staff Survey put the Trust in the top 20% in the country for staff engagement
• In the top 10% of trusts for financial efficiency, with the 14th lowest costs in the country
• Reduction in falls, pressure ulcers, new sepsis tools to reduce spread of infection, 100% compliance with WHO safety checklist and adoption of national safety standard for invasion procedures
• Development underway for state of the art neo-natal and adult intensive care
• New electronic patient record system for faster, better patient experience
Shared learning and being open and honest is at the heart of Lesley’s leadership. The introduction of CEO newsletters, staff briefings, podcasts and newsletters for all divisions reporting on the latest news, successes and innovations has doubled staff engagement over the last year. The Trust’s social media channels have grown by 20% as Lesley has led the way in talking openly and freely with patients, staff and the wider community. She is always to be found walking around the hospitals listening and chatting to staff and patients; visiting every area of each hospital weekly, without fail, even on Christmas Day. Every member of staff knows and trusts Lesley. Other initiatives introduced include:
• Ward accreditation, regular feedback sessions, team briefings, podcasts, videos
• Staff awards to celebrate success and long service awards, events and open days.
• Holding ‘Perfect Days’ where staff can swap roles to understand each other better.
• The Trust is a champion site for Digital Health London’s Accelerator • Schwartz Rounds – giving staff an opportunity to come together and reflect on professional and emotional aspects of their work.
Lesley has created a brand with Chelwest which stands for and delivers the highest quality care, integrity and expertise. Her leadership embodies the power of the NHS and why the country is so proud of our health service despite all the pressures placed upon it. Lesley and her staff have embedded the Trust’s PROUD values into everyday hospital life:
• Putting patients first
• Responsive to, and supportive of, patients and staff
• Open, welcoming and honest
• Unfailingly kind, treating everyone with respect, compassion and dignity
• Determined to develop our skills and continuously improve the quality of care.
The performance figures and statements in the previous answers show the incredible journey Lesley has taken the Trust on, and how today it stands out as a truly modern, forward thinking, safe, responsive and compassionate healthcare provider. Never more so has this been demonstrated than over the past year when the Trust has dealt with three terror incidents – the Westminster Bridge and London Bridge terrorist attacks, Parsons Green tube bombing as well as the Grenfell Tower fire with staff going above and beyond to personally ensure patients and their families received compassion, support and the very best of care.
Everyone is a stakeholder in a NHS Trust. Positive patient results in friends and family tests, letters, social media and interaction with all the staff and at all levels repeatedly show how Lesley and her leadership have delivered on putting patients first and exceptional care. Staff retention rates have improved, and both externally and internally staff and the public have shown a high appreciation of the Trust. GPs, specialists, and communities want to be part of the Chelwest family, the Trust’s membership has grown steadily, and there’s a strong engagement from a diverse group of governors.
Partnerships with private business have grown with innovation ideas from simple apps to the investment of millions of pounds in a state of the art critical care development to be completed in 2020. Lesley personally ensures a level of commitment to all our stakeholders, whether it is playing a leading role in the NWLondon STP, driving innovation and improvements or simply listening and talking each day to her patients and staff. Lesley is a truly exceptional and outstanding leader and deserves to take her place in the HSJ hall of fame as this year’s top CEO