Posted by: ayrshirehealth | March 5, 2014

First impressions count by @PAG1962


When I knew that I would be taking up post as Chief Executive of NHS Scotland and Director General, Health and Social Care, I wanted to do some preparation before I started.  NHS Scotland logoSo, during the month of November 2013, I visited a number of NHS Boards to meet managers, staff and patients.  And in the last week of November, I went to Boston to meet colleagues from the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI) to hear more about their approach to improvement science, in pursuit of improved health and healthcare – some of you might know that Derek Feeley is the Vice President of IHI.  All in all, it was an inspiring month.

Then, on Friday 29th November 2013, I was sitting in the departure lounge of Boston Logan Airport, looking forward to returning home and having a long weekend – Monday 2nd December was meant to be a day off before I started in my new role.  TwitterAnd then, from the other side of the Atlantic, I saw a tweet from Jim Murphy MP, saying that a helicopter had crashed into the roof of a Glasgow pub.  Of course, my first thought was, “Who has hacked Jim Murphy’s twitter account?”.  But then the messages started to flood in, and it became clear that something awful had happened.  By the time I got back to Scotland on the Saturday morning, the tragedy at the Clutha Vaults had unfolded – and the courage of citizens and responders had become clear.

It didn’t seem right to take the Monday off, so I went to the Scottish Ambulance Service depot at Springburn to meet some of the people who had responded to the incident.  SASIt was a truly humbling experience.  Paramedics and medical staff had put their own lives at risk to make sure that there was no further life to be saved in the Clutha Vaults.  They had done it quietly, and without fuss.  And I was immensely proud of them.  Later that day I met staff of the Glasgow Royal Infirmary who had received the first casualties, and I met a man who had been injured in the accident, who was still quite unwell, and who could not have been more fulsome in his praise for the care he had received.  Later that week I went to the Western Infirmary in Glasgow, where staff had also supported the initial response.  The porters there said that they had “just done their job” – and what a job they did.

Patient experience will define the reputation

What an introduction, then, to the best job in the world.  To see a combination of courage, values and compassion in action is inspiring. And this happens in times of calm as well as in times of crisis.  Courage, values, compassionI am immensely proud to have been appointed to this job, and feel a sense of privilege and responsibility.  Having been since then to a number of places where care is provided, I see examples wherever I go of care for people, of a desire to improve, and of a real sense of purpose.

I know that there are pressures, and that these pressures are very real and very immediate.  I know that people go above and beyond the call of duty every day, across the whole of Scotland.  I know that we are committed to patient safety and to improvement across the range of services we provide.

And I know too that there are areas where we need to change – our vision of more people living longer healthier lives in home or a homely setting can’t be delivered by keeping everything as it is.

Finally, since the first day I started, I have said that patient experience will define the reputation of NHS Scotland.  I saw on my first day, and in many places since, clear evidence that we can – and often do – provide the best care in the world.  We just need to make sure that we do that everywhere, all of the time.  And I haven’t met anyone yet who doesn’t want to do that.

I am convinced from what I have seen already that we have the capacity to achieve wonderful things – and I am here to help with that.

This week’s blogger was @PAG1962 (Paul Gray) Chief Executive of NHS Scotland and Director General, Health and Social Care.

Comments on this blog are welcome by clicking on the ‘Leave a Reply’ box below.


  1. […] First impressions count by Paul Gray on the Ayrshire Health blog […]

  2. […] When preparing for a new job, as Chief Executive of NHS Scotland, Paul Gray  visited a number of NHS Boards to meet staff and patients. He was inspired by what he found. Then a few days before starting, tragedy hit so many when a helicopter crashed into the roof of a Glasgow pub. Paul then spent time with paramedics and medical staff who assisted during this awful time and was impressed by their dedication, care and humility. Not quite the preparation he had planned but helped him see more than ever that First impressions count. […]

  3. I agree absolutely with Mr Gray’s statement that “patient experience will define the reputation of NHS Scotland” and I think this is true for all areas of healthcare, including mental health and psychiatric services, which are my focus, as an activist and campaigner, also an unpaid carer of two sons who have been diagnosed or labelled with mental disorders. I’m also a former psychiatric inpatient or survivor as I now call myself, and this is an added impetus in the work I do, to highlight issues and promote alternative ways of working with people in mental distress or altered mind states.

    I was encouraged to see via Twitter yesterday that Mr Gray, at the Scottish Patient Safety Programme – Mental Health, National Learning Session, shared personal experience of his mother’s mental health and the impact this had on him when a teenager. I do believe that a person’s story or narrative is a powerful testimony, both in its own right and to influence positive change.

  4. Reblogged this on chrys muirhead.

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