Sarah Maynard-Walker, Programme Director, talks us through the important work undertaken so far with Greater Manchester.

As a Programme Director at the NHS Transformation Unit (TU) I’m currently supporting the transformation of specialist cancer surgery services for Gynaecological, Oesophageal and Urological cancers. This work is commissioned by the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership as part of their Theme 3: Standardisation of Specialist and Acute Services workstream.

The overall aim of the programme is to bring together the specialist surgical expertise for each of the areas into three single services, with multidisciplinary teams of health professionals bringing a range of knowledge and skills into each service. These single services will not only improve patient outcomes, experience and choice, they will also streamline processes and patient pathways.

One of our major achievements this year has been establishing the Oesophageal specialist cancer and complex benign surgery service, hosted at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust (SRFT).

Our role in the beginning, working closely with the clinical lead and Board Chair, was to establish the governance for the programme and ensure arrangements were robust and representation was effective from all stakeholders.

Staff transferred to the new service from Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) on September 1st.  We wanted surgery to take place immediately after this transfer so co-designed this service to enable patients to start moving through the new pathway from July 9th.  We were delighted to successfully implement this and contribute to more effective patient journeys. Developing this service through to implementation has taken 18 months and we’ve supported it throughout.

Due to the number of patients each of the new single services will see, they will become some of the largest in the UK, offering very attractive career opportunities for high-calibre clinicians and bringing greater clinical trial opportunities to Greater Manchester, which can only benefit patients in the longer term.

Part of my role was supporting the strategic level partners to drive the programme forward. This included negotiating with senior stakeholders to resolve complex issues across the inter-dependent programmes in Greater Manchester e.g. Healthier Together. At the TU, we have a range of experts in-house so were able to identify the most appropriate colleagues to take responsibility across all the inter-dependent areas and work together to resolve any issues. Having such a broad mix of skills and experience across the team has made this a positive learning experience for us all but, more importantly, resulted in a more considered outcome for our client.

Working as one team across all three programmes has been immensely beneficial. We’ve been able to share our knowledge and learning and lever efficiencies as and when they’re identified. One of the common features of the three cancer programmes has been establishing single service multi-disciplinary teams (MDTs) and this is an area that’s really benefiting from working in this way.

The new teams have already been set up for the Oesophageal cancer service so, as the Gynaecological and Urological cancer services have yet to establish their new MDT arrangements, we’ll be able to use what we’ve learned already to develop these effectively. We’re also working closely with the Greater Manchester Cancer team and have recently secured agreement for the Gynaecological and Urological programmes to pilot the national MDT reforms there. This is a fantastic opportunity to shape national developments.

My previous experience has been in local government and community health services, so gaining experience of working across acute services, and in an area of such national focus and concern, is a privilege and has been genuinely inspiring. I’ve been able to work very closely with dedicated clinicians and incredibly resilient patients who all want to achieve the best possible services for others.

I’m currently organising a Lessons Learned event on Cancer Service Transformation. This will be a forum for all those involved in the three cancer programmes to come together, share their experiences, and hear about the successes and learning from the Oesophageal programme.

We will also have a stand at the GM Cancer Conference on 26 November, so please come and speak to us if you are there – we’ll be at the NHS Transformation Unit.