Lucy Cole

Hello my name is Lucy.  I’m the Director of the West Yorkshire Associate of Acute Trusts (WYAAT), an acute provider collaborative across West Yorkshire & Harrogate. 

In 1996, when Tony Blair was asked what his top three priorities were if the Labour Party came to power, he famously said: ‘education, education, education.’ 

It’s now 2021 and WYAAT has been in existence for five years.  As an established collaborative, we are often looked to by newly forming collaboratives as a model from which to learn and build.  Since taking over as WYAAT Director a few months ago, I’ve been contacted by counterparts all over the country, chatted to the National Policy team, Regional Provider Collaborative team and NHS Confederation, as they all look for shared insights from the WYAAT journey.  Questions about governance, roles and structures come up a lot but here is where the Blair analogy comes in, for me it’s all about relationships, relationships, relationships. 

Yes, good governance and assurance is a cornerstone for good decision-making.  Yes, programme resources are critical to success, as are numerous other factors, but our success is built on longstanding relationships and I don’t just mean the jovial personable aspects either.  The difficult conversations underpinned by trust, the honesty related to wicked issues bred only in a safe environment, picking up the phone to a peer to sound out an idea or a plan.  These are the aspects that make WYAAT work. 

As we say, WYAAT isn’t an organisation, an entity or a central team of people, WYAAT is the collaboration between six partner trusts across West Yorkshire & Harrogate to deliver high quality, sustainable care to patients.  Only trusted relationships can hold that together.  At the onset of the pandemic, this shone through.  Our relationships meant that people from across WYAAT member trusts became the backbone of the team which set up the Nightingale Hospital in a few short weeks, that established a Gold Command to enact mutual aid between trusts, and through our partnerships across the system and through places, worked together to deliver a successful vaccination programme. 

Now let’s scale that from WYAAT into our overarching partnership, which has been on a similar journey since 2016 when Sustainability and Transformation Plans were the new show in town.  WYAAT is built on strong relationships, which in turn is part of a system of strong relationships between places, between sectors and between people.  It is these relationships and the values held that will carry WYAAT and our partnership through the next phase of transition.  The new Health and Care Bill recognises provider collaboratives as a key system component as well as creating Integrated Care Boards as statutory bodies.  Amongst this change, we’ve all been clear we need to hold on to West Yorkshire the partnership – the collaboration between places, sectors, commissioners, providers and local authorities. 

The emerging space for provider collaboratives and their role in the future health and care architecture brings big questions for us to navigate about decision-making structures, mutual accountability, mutual aid and support, and how we deliver collaborative operational services in the future.  The asks are becoming more challenging and we as WYAAT aren’t now always setting the agenda as we did when we were first established.  Whilst this perhaps isn’t the seismic shift of the 1997 general election, continuing our focus on ‘relationships, relationships, relationships’ gives us the bedrock to have the difficult conversations, to challenge ourselves, and to continue to do the right thing for the populations we serve. 

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