Author - Ian Trenholm


Monday began with more appraisals, calls and meetings at the West End Donor Centre.

Tuesday started with an early morning meeting with Henny Braund who runs the Anthony Nolan Charity talking all things stem cell. This was followed by a board preparation session for our main board meeting later in the month, before John Pattullo and I headed over to the Department of Health.

We met Jane Ellison, the Public Health (and ‘our’) Minister and talked about our current performance. The Minister was very pleased with where we are and was very appreciative of the efforts we all make to deliver our vital services. We then spent the rest of the day with other DH colleagues talking about our performance in more detail as part of our annual review.

Wednesday morning involved donning my Deputy Chair of the National Information Board hat and presenting the work of the board to a number of other DH Arm’s length Body Non-Exec Directors. The conversation was around how we are collectively delivering digital services for patients.

It was then on to the Houses of Parliament to launch our new Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community toolkit for MPs. The purpose of this collection of statistics, sample press releases and other material is to give MPs the tools to talk their constituencies about the importance of donation. We were supported by a number of patient groups and transplant recipients. The message we were trying to get across is that the lack of Black and Asian donors is creating a significant health inequality – I am determined to do something about it.

Thursday was in London again, with my opposite numbers from Scotland and Ireland, working with the delegates on the International Development Programme. We heard presentations on the fantastic stuff that the group have been doing using International work as part of their personal development. There were too many inspirational stories to list here but I saw a number of people achieving massive things, saving lives in very real ways, from being hands-on in country to providing advice from a distance, through to creating alternative viewpoints. The key leaning point was – don’t wait to ask for permission, or over complicate things, the secret to getting things done is get things done.

Thursday was also International Nurses Day – so Happy Nursing day to our many nurse colleagues!

It has been a busy week so I spent today catching up.

Final quick plea – if you haven’t already, please register to vote. The referendum is coming up and it is vital everyone has their say. I am a former Returning Officer so am an unashamed nerd about this stuff but really, people have died to give everyone a voice, please use it.

Have a great weekend.


Short week, but seemed busy. Tuesday started fairly close to home with a visit to the South Central SNOD team. I talked about the challenges and opportunities for the coming year, including advanced cell therapies, of which more later. We talked about the vital role the SNODs play in being the local leaders for organ donation in their hospitals, and the practical things they can do to deliver that.

Wednesday was the Exec Team meeting, followed by our Procurement Board. The Exec team had a full agenda, which also included signing off papers for the Board meeting at the end of the month. The Procurement Board is the Exec team’s opportunity to catch up on progress with some of our longer term contracts to make sure we have actions in train to deliver the right contracts at the right time.

The challenge of being in the somewhat niche business we are in is that a number of our contracts only have a handful of suppliers and this can sometimes lead to only one or two bids for some commodities and services – which in turn can make some things unnecessarily expensive. Our approach is to look for ways to make contracts competitive, perhaps by bundling things together (or unbundling) what we do today;  and ensuring that we are not over specifying our requirements. We are also increasingly interested in working with others to take advantages of economies of scale. This does however create challenges for Eugene Cooke and his Procurement Team.

Thursday was off to Guys Hospital to the Advanced Cell Therapy Catapult offices. The Catapult is a government funded unit which aims to promote Advanced Cell Therapies and Regenerative medicine. It aims to work with industry, blood services, regulators universities and others to make the UK an attractive place for businesses to set up the development and manufacture of regenerative medical products. The argument being that a strong UK industry is good for patients and good for business.

As part of this promotion effort George Freeman the Life Sciences Minster has set up an Advanced Therapy Task Force (which I am part of). This workshop on Thursday was part of the Task Force’s work.

Advanced Cell based therapies differ from conventional pharmaceuticals in that there is a need to collect cells from a patient, or donor, move them to a process location, carry out complex procedures on them in very closely controlled environments and then move them back to a hospitals for implantation in the patient.

Some people forget this is our day job – we have a unique set of capabilities which range from: donor relationships; TAS clinics to collect cells; through to clear understanding of licencing; GMP environments; large and small scale manufacturing facilities all over the country; great scientists; access to a network of clean rooms; well managed logistics and distribution; finishing up with strong relationships with hospitals and clinicians. All underpinned with world renowned Research and Development.

As you would expect I take every opportunity I can to remind people that NHSBT has a really vital part to play in getting these new therapies to the clinic. This isn’t just about me bragging – the impact on patients will be massive. It feels that the opportunity for genuine cures for some of our most intractable chronic conditions are within our grasp – and NHSBT can help make it a reality. I would encourage all of you to talk openly and often about what we can do – don’t assume everyone knows!

Thursday evening was off to Birmingham to join Peter Lidstone and the Manufacturing and Logistics team for their Leadership Event. I spoke about the current change programme and the important role we play in the NHS. My key themes were that we need to balance compassion and competence. Compassion alone isn’t enough to cure people. We are already a strongly compassionate organisation and have a good track record of being good at what we do, but as the world moves on we need to make sure we keep up. The challenges for the next year are continuing to focus on productivity and ensuring that new investments buildings, IT, and processes are as flexible as possible so that as things like advanced cell therapies become a reality we can accommodate them easily.

Friday morning was heading back towards home, with a number of calls and a visit to Vodafone to talk about a range of things from Wi-Fi in hospitals through to progress on our contracts.

This Friday was driving home in the sun – bit of contrast to the snow of last week!

Have a great weekend.


This week has been a little sad as we say goodbye to our colleagues from North Wales as they leave NHSBT to join the new All Wales Blood Service – more on this later.

Monday started in the West End Donor centre with a number of meetings and carrying on with appraisals for the senior team. Tuesday was at Skipton House, the Department of Health office at Elephant and Castle. I was meeting the Chief Executives of the other DH Arm’s length Bodies (we need to pick a better name!). On the agenda was leadership development, along with a short discussion on sharing services between us. We talked about how we could look for ways to share learning and in a few cases, directly deliver services for each other.

I then met John Pattullo, our Chairman and we started my appraisal. If yours isn’t booked in with your line manager yet, please get it booked in ASAP.

Wednesday started with an induction meeting with Prof John Forsythe. John has recently joined us to be the medical lead for all things ODT. John is a transplant surgeon, former chair of SABTO, and one of our former Non exec directors, so he brings with him a real wealth of experience. The rest of the day was calls and emails.

Thursday began in the West End joining Léonie Austin and her Comms management team for a couple of hours. Lots of talk about digital marketing and the recent structural changes with blood marketing coming into Léonie’s team.

It was then home and a drive up to Stone in Staffordshire to stay overnight before completing my trip to the snow-capped hills of St Asaph in North Wales on Friday morning. Mike Stredder and I were saying goodbye to our colleagues from North Wales. The teams in North Wales are moving across to the Welsh Blood Service from today. The Welsh Government announced a while ago that they wanted to form an All Wales Blood Service and we have been working with them to make that happen.
Ian North WalesMike and I were joined by Cath O’Brien, my opposite number in the Welsh Service, and Steve Ham, the Chief Executive of the Velindre Trust who manages the Welsh Service. There were lots of other people from both NHSBT and the Welsh Blood Service who had been involved in the project. Whilst there was cake, (and one or two tears), I was very struck by the great spirit from everyone there who had one thing in common, to make this transfer work for donors and patients. I have been hugely impressed by the highly professional and committed manner in which the teams have conducted themselves all the way through this process.

Whilst I am a little sad to be losing North Wales, I know that we will stay friends! There is a well-rehearsed mutual aid process in place across the UK, and a number of people were telling me that this project has built even closer relationships between NHSBT and Welsh colleagues which we know will be useful in the future.

I then got back in the car and headed south through the sun / snow / rain / cold, that seems to have characterised the last few days. I stopped off in Leicester to visit Adele Mayer and the Leicester team running a mobile session at the sports centre in Thurmaston. It looked like a busy session but the team had a good flow going. The main topic of conversation though was would Leicester win the Premiership on Sunday. My sense was that we would all be able to hear the roar if they won!

It was then off home for the Bank Holiday weekend.

Finally, calling all nurses – remember International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every 12th May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Watch out for an article in Connect, #NHSBTNurses and #InternationalNursesDay.

Have a great (long) weekend.


Monday started with some early morning calls and final preparations for the Senior Leadership Summit. The event started at 4.30 and I kicked things off with a presentation. I talked about the need for us to support the NHS by continuing our work on improving productivity and safety, as well as ensuring that all of our investments, whether they be in IT or Estates are as flexible as possible to enable us to respond to new challenges.

I then handed over to John Pattullo, our chairman, who talked about taking (sensible) risks in the pursuit of improvement. The work continued on into the night, working on some ‘wicked’ issues. If you are interested in learning more about what a wicked issue is then the paper version of what this means is here  and the video version is here

Tuesday was a full day at the summit. For the Twitterati amongst you some of the attendees gave a commentary under the hashtag #LeadingNHSBT . One of my aims was to present some of our key programmes such as Core Systems Modernisation (replacement for Pulse), ODT Hub and the new Desktop and get everyone working together as ‘One NHSBT’ to look at the challenges and opportunities this will offer. One of the questions we were working on was how we ensure we can keep doing the great work we do (and improve it), whilst ensuring that we have enough operational expertise on the programmes, so they deliver easy to use, well-built software and new processes.

Some of the headlines from the speakers included:

  • Ceri Rose and Richard Rackham shared some very personal reason why they work for us and how our work saved their children’s lives. Richard reminded us that only a few years ago we would tell hospitals what “we could spare them”, whereas now they place orders and we simply deliver them.
  • Eden Charles, our external speaker talked about ensuring that we should never forget to dream big, as he said Martin Luther King did not start with “I have a PowerPoint presentation…”
  • Ben Hume, who is leading the ODT Hub work and Mick Burton, who is leading Core System Modernisation talked about the challenges of leading technical programmes and the need to jump in and be ‘comfortable being uncomfortable’, learning as they went. Ben said that whilst we should be proud of being a compassionate organisation, compassion alone does not save lives, we need to demonstrate ‘compassion with competence’. Both Ben and Mick impressed with the passion and honesty in their leadership.
  • Aaron Powell and Ceri Rose talked about digital services and the work we are doing to improve our networks and desktop. We are building a much more flexible set of technology to deliver the flexibility I talked about at the start of the session.

There were lots of others sessions and conversations and we all came away tired but I hope prodded into thought about some big picture things as well as some personal behaviours.

Wednesday was in the West End Donor centre for the monthly performance session. We began with the Transformation Programme Board and did a review of our programmes and prioritised some future work. We then had my review with each of the directors and their teams looking at performance.

The key issue we talked through this month was working hard to improve the amount of O neg blood and A neg platelets. These universal components are being used increasingly by hospitals and usage rates are nearing twice the occurrence in the population. This means that in some cases we have to have O neg and A neg donors in twice as often as other donors. We have a number of plans in place to increase the O neg stock in particular. We are now getting to a point whereby we will have to book at least some appointments based on blood type.

Thursday was back in London doing appraisals. Today has been at home doing a series of calls and catching up on e mails. Overall it has felt like a big week with lots done and some inspiring thoughts from the leadership summit.

Couple of other things. International Nurses Day is celebrated around the world every 12th May, the anniversary of Florence Nightingale’s birth. Watch out for an article in Connect, #NHSBTNurses and #InternationalNursesDay.

I was also really pleased to see that Aaron Powell made the Top 40 most influential technology leaders in the UK for the work he and his team have been doing here. This is industry recognition for Aaron personally and his team and it also gets the message out that we are serious about the way we use technology in our work.

And finally, we are launching our graduate scheme this weekend, more details here and on LinkedIn . If you know any graduates who want to come and work for us please point them in the direction of this excellent scheme, one role even involves working directly with me!


See you next week.


Monday started with 121s and appraisals at the West End, finishing up with a call. Tuesday was more 121s and calls. Wednesday was a day off. We are starting to look at Universities for my son – this week it was (sunny) Cardiff!

Thursday was off to Suffolk to visit the Cambridge mobile blood team in Haverhill. It was a nice venue in the heart of the town. Hilary Reynolds and the team have been doing a great job and were very proud of recent improvements in productivity.

It was then back down the M11 and on to Grays in Essex to meet the Harlow team. The venue at Thurrock Civic Hall was a good size but suffered a bit from lack of natural light. We talked about a number of things around the team base move scheduled for later in the year.

Today has been back at the West End Donor session with our two new Non Executive Directors, Charles St John and Prof Paresh Vyas. You can read about the backgrounds of Charles, Paresh and our other Non Execs here.  These were great conversations and each will bring a unique and valuable perspective to our board as we grow and develop NHSBT.

I am afraid that the Blog is a bit short this week, but with 10 direct reports carrying out annual appraisals will take up a fair amount of time over the coming weeks.

See you next week.