Happy New Year to all! From Adam Thomas

Welcome to the roaring twenties, the decade of rebel ideas? By now most of us will have written “2019” and then made it look like 2020 half a dozen times, as well as got bored of the “2020 vision” pun.

First and foremost, a huge thanks to all colleagues that have worked hard over the festive period and bank holidays to keep our patients safe. It certainly has been a busy couple of weeks with pressures across the healthcare system in Dudley and the wider Black country. Well done and thank you, to all teams.

In the lead up to Christmas the Dudley Group Charity ran a number of events to support our Children’s ED appeal. All donations going towards our target of £100,000 to improve the environment for children and young people when they attend the hospital as an emergency. Thank you to all that took part and donated to this worthy cause. I can certainly vouch that the Santa dash was more challenging than I had expected! We did however make the front pages of local newspapers as a very positive story for the Trust, with lots of other festive coverage promoting the Trust including the Christmas video, Christmas market and carol singing.

I am very pleased to announce that the festive fund raising brought in a fantastic £2861 so another thank you for all the support.

Prior to Christmas, a couple of books were recommended to me. David Fillingham (NHSI executive improvement practice coach) recommended John Shook’s – Managing to Learn.  Peter Lowe our very own Head of Improvement Practice, recommended Matthew Syed’s “Rebel Ideas”. I’ve been fortunate enough to get my hands on a copy of both. Whilst, I have yet to get into the managing to learn text, I can recommend “Rebel Ideas” to all current or aspiring leaders.

Rebel Ideas, explores the importance of diverse thinking in teams, avoiding collective blindness, the risks of dominance hierarchies versus shared responsibility and the importance of innovative learning through combining ideas and “outsider thinking”. Written by a journalist, it is not surprising that this book is easy to read and  gathers evidence and opinions and applies these to real life examples – broadly these are epic or catastrophic failures. Learning lessons and shared knowledge is a basic principle of human evolution and certainly applies to healthcare.







In one chapter, the rebel ideas book explores the infamous and devastating events on mount Everest in 1996 and the actions that lead to the catastrophe. As a keen mountaineer, I have read many accounts of this event. It made me reflect on my own mountaineering experiences, decision making, and lessons learned, which I may add are in no way a comparison with the devastating events of Everest in 1996.

I’m taken back to the English Lake District, my spiritual home. Wasdale Head – mid March a few years ago. A good friend (a mountain leader) and I have decided to take a last-minute trip. After driving from the Midlands to the heart of the Lakes we arrive at Wasdale Head around 3pm Friday. We make basecamp in the field outside the Wasdale Head Inn – as this seems very sensible. We then quickly gather our kit and set out to fell-run Scafell Pike before dark. At the top, dusk is approaching and disorientating fog closes in – bringing visibility down to 10 – 20 yards. Helpfully we have left the GPS unit in the car. We are however both carrying warm clothes, a torch, a whistle, a compass and we have an OS map. Training kicks in and we work together to set bearings, one of us walks ahead 10 yards on that bearing, counting paces (meters) while the other keeps the bearing true – we then overlap and repeat. Fast, effective, safe. We’re soon safely out of the fog and off the mountain for pie and a pint. Great fun and a reminder; the peak of a mountain is only the halfway point!

The following day, we get up early to glorious warm, spring sunshine. Pack basecamp into the back of the car, grab rucksacks and set off on a long two-day route plan, over some classic peaks; Seatallan, Steeple, Pillar, Kirk Fell, Great Gable. The aim is to freecamp on the saddle below Great End before returning Sunday morning to the car. We tell the local climbing shop and the Inn our plans, for safety’s sake. I look at the peak of Great End in the distance, which is still strewn with strips of winters snow. I look to the high hanging stratus clouds that seem to be noticeably building through the first hours of the morning and joke to my climbing companion – have you got the GPS, as it looks like snow?! It’s about 15°C, we leave Wasdale head in shorts and t-shirts at mid-morning, behind schedule.

Five hours later we are on a knife-edge ridge. A blizzard has closed in within 15 minutes, the temperature is 2°C. We’re at about 820m. The visibility is zero. Warm clothes are already donned – although neither of us has packed ski goggles and the snow is overwhelming and stinging our eyes. It is unsafe to back track on the steep exposed rocky section that brought us here. We sit it out for 30mins hoping it may go as quickly as it came, both still eager to crack on and bag some more peaks. After some discussion mainly fuelled by bravado and then latterly an examination of the information in front of us; failing light, wind chill, lack of visibility, we actually listen to each other’s concerns. We arrive at the decision to get off the peak and retreat to the car – smart move. We have GPS! So, re-plan and push on along the ridge to safely get to an intermediate position, in so doing we’ll descend to 400m and below the snowline. Slow going.

At 400m and now out of the snow, we are cold and light is fading quickly in the shadow of peaks and the murk of the clouds. We put the tent up – ‘imaginatively’, as my friend hasn’t packed the pegs – which is a nice surprise! We are now very cold, have wet gloves, it’s dark and we are incapable of operating the zips on our coats, never mind a lighter to start cooking. Together we have the tools, skills, knowledge and experience to first get warm, then get fed, then get sleep and then get home safely the next day. Which we do.

Scant snow makes it down to 400meters by 6am the following morning walking away from the big peaks behind us;

GPS is now always with me (as a backup). Ski goggles and a two-layer glove system have a permeant place in my Autumn / Spring kit bag. Knowledge and experience shared.

As we plunge into a new decade, I’m reconnected with some old learning. Fail to plan, plan to fail. Trust in your skills, knowledge, tools and experience. Learn from the past. Be aware of the bounds of your own competence and know when to ask. Speak up, listen up, share information and knowledge as a team. Challenge and don’t be afraid to have rebel ideas!

Happy New Year – have a fantastic 2020!