In this article, SpaMedica’s Chief Executive Officer, Richard Woodward, provides some insight and reflections on his role.
As SpaMedica’s CEO, it’s my responsibility to oversee every aspect of the business, making sure our day-to-day operations run smoothly, and helping to set the long-term plans and goals for our future. I’m responsible for our growth, our culture and – most importantly – for ensuring that we deliver the best quality care and excellent outcomes for our patients. I help to make our systems and processes as efficient and effective as possible, and constantly evaluate our services to see where refinements or improvements can be made. I also ensure our policies and practices reflect the statutory requirements set out by the Care Quality Commission, Government, and other regulatory bodies. It’s my job to make sure our company values – safety, integrity, kindness and transparency – are reflected in everything we do.
Thankfully, I don’t have to do this alone. I work with a wonderful team of directors who help to set the strategic vision for our organisation and keep me informed about everything that’s going on across the company, but it’s our fantastic employees who have made SpaMedica what it is today. Their expertise, passion and commitment have been integral to our success.
My role involves decision-making, forward planning, evaluating the performance of our hospitals and departments, and finding solutions to any challenges that arise along the way. I’ll also review and refine any communications that we’re planning to share with stakeholders to make sure the messaging is right.
One of the most crucial steps to building a successful organisation is ensuring that you have the right people in place, and I work with our Chief People Officer and HR team to ensure we recruit highly skilled staff who are committed to giving our patients the best experience possible. Once those staff have been hired, we want them to stay with us for as long as possible, so it’s important to give them opportunities for training, development and progression and create an environment where they’re happy to come to work and enjoy spending time with their colleagues. Staff retention and engagement is a major priority for any CEO, but it’s especially important when your organisation relies on such a diverse skill set. Factors like staff pay, benefits, work-life balance and a strong organisational culture are essential to looking after your employees – and if our employees are happy, this filters down to our patients, too.
One of the things that makes me incredibly proud to work for SpaMedica is the fact that we do invest in our employees. This is important to me and the organisation. One of our employees recently celebrated her ten-year anniversary with us, having worked her way up from an administrative role to a team leader, and then to a regional manager. It’s a fantastic example of how – if someone has the talent – we’ll do everything we can to help them flourish.
In a fast-paced and ambitious organisation where we always have new initiatives – and new hospitals – on the horizon, it’s important to ensure that people’s working environments don’t become “all work and no play,” because one of the quickest ways to lose talented staff is to overwork them and pile on the pressure without any respite. I know our employees find their jobs incredibly rewarding, and I’m committed to keeping it that way. That’s why it’s been great to see so many teams getting involved in engagement events and awareness days, fundraising for causes they’re passionate about, and genuinely enjoying their work. I can honestly say I’ve never seen an organisation champion equality and diversity like SpaMedica does – and that’s a credit to all our teams.
SpaMedica works in close partnership with the NHS to help reduce waiting lists for cataract surgeries and, because many elective procedures were delayed during the pandemic, we’ve been taking on record numbers of referrals each month to help clear the backlog. One of my foremost priorities is ensuring that this doesn’t impact on our quality of service and patients continue to benefit from rapid referral to treatment times. Of course, as well as making sure patients are seen and treated quickly, we want to make sure they’re happy with the outcomes of their surgery and that their overall experience of using our services is as positive as it can be – because we appreciate that no one relishes the prospect of having eye surgery!
For our organisation to work effectively, all our hospitals and head office departments have to be performing well, as it is a collaborative effort to ensure excellent standards are achieved. While our outcomes are, of course, dependent on the expertise and skill of our teams, our patients’ overall experience is influenced by so many other factors. For example, they might look at:
It’s easy to see then, that although some of our staff are office-based and don’t interact directly with patients, they all play a crucial role in our patients’ experience. It’s important for me as a CEO to develop a comprehensive understanding of what each of our teams does and then – in conjunction with the directors who have responsibility for that service area – look at how they’re performing and identify any areas that we can streamline or improve. I think it’s essential to listen to staff’s feedback and ideas as part of this process, because they’re often in the best position to comment on the day-to-day realities of their roles, and while we’ve always been an ambitious organisation, we don’t want to set targets that are unreasonable or impossible to meet.
Of course, patient feedback is equally as important, and our marketing team keeps me up-to-date with the data we gather from our patient surveys and feedback forms, along with how many five-star reviews we receive on NHS UK every month, enabling me to identify any significant trends.
Managing performance isn’t always about key performance indicators, though, because what we do can’t always be measured or quantified – like showing kindness and compassion towards our patients, taking the time to put their minds at rest before their surgery, or doing our best to make them feel special.
Of course, if we want our teams to perform well, we have to make sure we’re giving them the time, resources, knowledge and training they need to succeed in their roles, and that’s something I’m proud to say we do exceptionally well at SpaMedica. We have an in-house training and development team, statutory/mandatory training modules for all staff, and a suite of courses available on everything from supporting patients with learning difficulties to workplace ethics.
SpaMedica has a bank of over 140 policies that are regularly updated by specialist staff members in line with the latest statutory guidance and developments in healthcare. Those policies cover everything from data protection and safeguarding to health and safety and clinical practices. As the CEO, I have overall responsibility for ensuring that staff aren’t just reading those policies, they’re actively putting them into practice, and we have a variety of internal audits in place to check compliance across different service areas.
It’s important for me to keep an eye on the social and political landscape so we’re aware of – and can make plans for – any major health reforms or changes to Government guidance. This was crucial during COVID-19, when guidance for healthcare providers was changing rapidly. Thanks to our fantastic infection prevention and control team, clinical staff, and cleaners, we were able to keep our hospitals safe for our patients and staff.
I’m responsible for our long-term growth strategy, which involves scoping out opportunities for research and development and working in partnership with local commissioners to determine how we can expand our services to better meet the needs of patients. I also oversee the progress of our new hospitals, making sure they’re delivered on time and on budget. We’ve built nine new hospitals so far this year, and as anyone who has ever been involved in large-scale project management knows, there are a lot of logistics involved – and sometimes a few teething issues along the way. Our property, facilities and IT teams have done a fantastic job of developing and implementing the specifications for our new hospitals, making sure they benefit from state-of-the-art furnishings and facilities, and our marketing team have coordinated signage and made sure our new teams have all the materials they need – from posters, to pens and patient booklets. We then oversee the long-term maintenance of those hospitals, so if any issues arise with either the building or equipment, they’re resolved as soon as possible.
I work with our Chief Financial Officer to keep an eye on expenditure and make sure our money is well spent – and that means channelling as much of it as possible into projects, initiatives and resources that benefit our patients and staff. Of course, I still have to ensure that the company remains financially secure for the foreseeable future, so that means regularly reviewing our budgets for each department, looking at areas where cutbacks can be made, and areas that could benefit from further investment. We’re also committed to giving back to the sector as a whole, whether that’s through training community opticians to carry-out post-operative consultations to enhance their own revenue streams, delivering CPD sessions to NHS optometrists, or funding more dry labs where surgeons and students across the country can hone their skills. It’s a balancing act, but we always put patients before profits.
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