Tea and Cake

Tea and Cake

This week I will be baking cakes again for ‘Tea and Cake with Jon and Andy‘. I have been doing this for a couple of years now – putting aside an hour for any CCG staff member to come along and ask me anything. I bring cake, Andy brings his tea-pot.We do this every couple of months and it has been well received.


I get asked what this is about, and why I do it. There are a number of reasons.


To give permission to talk to me. Now, on one hand I think this is daft, because I’m telling you now that you can come and talk to me anytime, but I appreciate it’s not quite as straightforward as this. I’m not always available – I’m in surgery for 2 days every week and then have meetings filling my diary. Some days you can only really speak to me if you have scheduled the time into my calendar! The tea and cake sessions essentially do that for you. There is also something about members of staff having the confidence to go and say hello to the Chair. Again, I think I am approachable, but someone recently told their colleagues that they thought I was ‘scary’. Clearly I need to work on my approach-ability! The tea and cake sessions signal that it’s OK to come and say hello – in fact it is positively encouraged. I hope that through these sessions people will then see that I am not scary after all.This links to the next reason:


To make people realise I am human too. I am very happy to talk about non-work related topics in these sessions. I talk about my pastimes and hobbies, about the cakes I have made (or that my daughter has helped me make), and about anything that people want to hear about. These sessions are great as they give us a brief moment to lift our heads from the busy day and chat. I hope people can see that I am nothing special and also get a sense of who I am and what motivates me. Understanding me as I lead the organisation is important to me.


To give opportunity to ask awkward questions. And by this I don’t just mean questions that are difficult to answer, but also ones where there is no other forum to ask them. Meetings usually have tight agendas, and we try to stick to them – what if you want to ask something different, that perhaps only you want to know? We make it very clear that you can ask anything during a tea and cake session.


To say thank you. The cakes are always home made. Usually by me although sometimes my 13 year old daughter helps. People are always surprised and grateful for this. It is a little thing – but it is my way of saying thank you, and of saying that I value their work and contribution.


When I first started working as a junior doctor 22 years ago, my registrar used to encourage me into action after any break we had by saying,

“Come on Jonathan, it’s time to save lives and stamp out disease”

It is a line that has stayed with me throughout my career. I sometimes ask our CCG staff if they feel they are saving lives and stamping out disease, because I genuinely think that they are. It is a tough time to be an NHS manager. We don’t have enough money, and people frequently raise the issue of money being spent on managers rather than front line staff. I think this is understandable, but unfortunate, and I am not sure that people who say this really understand the value of the management taking place in CCGs.


I do know, because I see it, that CCG staff in Central Cheshire are hard working, dedicated and doing their best to improve the health of people locally. They talk to clinicians working at the CCG, they hear the patient stories at Governing Body and other meetings, they frequently live in the area and so are patients themselves, or have family members who are. They care passionately about the people of Central Cheshire and are working to ensure that quality healthcare is available for them. They are running projects to commission new and better pathways, they are monitoring the quality of local services, they are making sure the local hospital is paid for the work done, they are holding the trust to account for it’s performance targets.


They don’t get much, if any, recognition.


My tea and cake sessions are, in part, to recognise this. They are to say thank you, to point out that I value them, to answer any questions they have, and to hopefully inspire them to continue.


This blog is therefore to do the same. It is to publicly thank the CCG staff for their work, and to make sure they know they can come and eat cake with me in these sessions.


I could have written this blog about the front line staff working across Central Cheshire, and I hope that none of them feel I have overlooked them or missed them out – there is no slight intended. I know that they are all working hard as well, and that the people of this area are receiving the very best care. I could have written this blog about the staff I work with in practice at Swanlow. I see their hard work in clinics, admin and reception. I know they do an excellent job too.


This time though, this blog is about CCG staff – often forgotten and maligned, but doing essential work to ensure services are available for us all.


Thank you.


Dr Jonathan is a GP at Swanlow Practice in Winsford, Cheshire, and Chair of NHS Vale Royal Clinical Commissioning Group.


Follow Jonathan on Twitter @DrJonGriffiths


Photograph is of cakes made for the May 2016 Tea and Cake session.