Emil Brown, complaints case manager and Race Equality and Cultural Heritage (REACH) network co-chair, shares his My CUH Story as part of our Black History Month celebrations.
Emil, what’s your role in our hospitals?
I currently work in the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) and Complaints department as a complaints case manager. I manage complaints that are raised by patients and their loved ones. These can cover a wide range of issues, such as concerns with a patient’s care or treatment, queries over general facilities and any issues in the overall experience someone has had here at CUH.
I am also the co-chair of the Race Equality and Cultural Heritage (REACH) staff network.
Tell us a bit about your CUH journey.
I joined CUH in 2018 from Basildon & Thurrock Trust. I subsequently completed a secondment in the Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) team for two years during the initial Covid-19 period and I’ve recently returned to my substantive position as a complaints case manager.
I have been involved in equality, diversity and inclusion agendas in previous organisations that I have a worked for, which has made me much more active and wanting to make a change, not only within the organisation I work in, but also within the community and population we live in. I was approached to give a presentation about being a Cultural Ambassador at CUH during a network event and since then I have been involved in the Trust Anti-Racism Agenda and also taken the helm as the network co-chair with my colleague Tracy Cripps.
Being a member of the REACH network gives me the chance to have a positive impact on the culture of our organisation, so that staff can have a better experience and service users can receive better care.
It’s a way in which I can help change behaviours and thinking and be part of the agenda to create acceptance for every individual, whatever their background. Then I think I’ve been able to make a difference.
Can you explain a bit more about your role?
It is paramount that CUH openly and thoroughly investigates any formal concerns raised by service users.
We must make sure a meaningful outcome and response is provided, which ensures appropriate lessons have been learnt, and action is taken to help us improve the care we provide to our patients.
We robustly investigate all issues raised alongside senior staff within the organisation and provide a response. The response is shared with the complainant following a thorough review process.
It is a highly pressured role. Not only are there tight deadlines, the issues raised can be emotionally demanding and it is really important that we are empathetic and show understanding. Some cases can be very challenging and it’s our role to find a medium to address the issues in the best possible way. It is also very important to ensure that we deal with the concerns satisfactorily, and that we are open and transparent.
What do you enjoy most about your role?
I enjoy helping people.
It’s really gratifying when we are able to provide clarity, reassurance and resolution at what can be one of the most difficult periods for people.
One example is helping families with closure following a bereavement, or when we’ve been able to satisfy a service user with answers to the questions they have presented.
What really makes it worthwhile is the thank you we get at the end, and knowing the person has had some form of closure or satisfaction with the outcome. We help address any issues in the best possible way; helping people through their difficulties.
Why do you like working at CUH?
CUH is a world-leading centre of medical excellence and an internationally-known university teaching hospital.
I think first and foremost when I arrived at CUH I was blown away by the warmth of the staff, and the focus everyone has on wanting to make a difference.
I was aware that CUH is world-renowned, and that didn’t faze me, but when I actually joined the Trust and met my colleagues and other staff members, you really get that warm and welcoming feeling, and the desire to ensure that the care and treatment of is of a consistent high standard.
Being in my position, as we deal with complaints I notice that a lot of effort and emphasis is placed on improving someone’s health, and on their recovery when they leave the care of the hospital.
It’s a wonderful place to work and I think it’s one of the best organisations we have in the country.
What does a usual day look like?
A usual day is filled with emails and phone calls. The team deals with a lot of demands on the service to address any concerns or issues, coupled with defined targets and deadlines we must meet. Once an investigation has taken place and we have received the report from senior staff, it is my role to formulate a response and check that everything has been appropriately addressed. As I mentioned earlier, it’s important we are always open, transparent and fair.
Everyone must feel that their concerns have been acknowledged. Occasionally measures may need to be put in place if there have been failings. One of the many roles we have is being a mediator and we are a team who has a broad knowledge of processes and understanding of service provision and its challenges. However we’re not only here to address patient concerns, we are also here to support staff and give them guidance on the best approach to addressing a concern.
How do you feel your role benefits our patients?
This role is all about ensuring the patients’ voice is heard. If someone feels unable to raise a concern directly to staff providing the care, we are there as another avenue to listen and work with the individual to achieve a satisfactory resolution, whether they are requesting information, providing feedback, raising a concern, or requiring information about making a complaint.
I think our role is vital for patients and for staff. Our focus is to investigate, recommend action, and respond to complaints, ensuring the highest possible standard of care and treatment is provided to patients
Please tell us about your role in our staff networks.
The REACH network promotes race equality and inclusion across the Trust. My role as co-chair means I can give a voice to those people who feel they don’t have a voice. The network can help voice their concerns in a structured way and we ensure staff are treated fairly and equally, and that they feel they are part of a family. We are still on this journey, but the learning is to ensure that all staff are informed, and educated, take forward the East of England Anti-Racism Agenda, and help to be part a positive culture which is free of bias, unconscious bias, incivility and inequality.
Importantly the REACH network’s role in CUH is vital in helping equality issues in the workplace such as recruitment, progression and promote a diverse range of talent.
I am in a position where I can influence and educate staff, but it also works the other way around where I am continually learning from others in helping in addressing inequality in the workplace.
How has the network helped you?
Becoming co-chair of the REACH network has fuelled my passion to create positive change within the organisation and tackle key topics, to support and create opportunities for other members.
The REACH network creates an environment whereby people support each other in celebrating their achievements, maximising their potential and also challenging the Trust when things are not going well.
I have met a group of people who are passionate about equality and diversity and who are focussed on making a difference. It’s definitely about the people I’ve met along the way!
If you work for the Trust and would like more information about the REACH network or if you are interested in becoming a member, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org