As we pass the 6-month mark since the Enate team switched to remote working, and W(h)ine Club takes a late summer hiatus, Alex Purvis, Enate’s Sales Director and Founder of W(h)ine Club reflects on its success and incredible discoveries.
Back in May, at the height of the pandemic, and following the cancellation of events, I talked about how it was important to find new ways to connect with people.
Facing a slog of unknown duration, I thought about how I might keep my own spirits and energy up if I could find a way to be useful. I guessed others would be feeling the same and with limited options in a lockdown, I came up with a simple premise: bring together industry thought leaders, vendors and topical experts to collaborate on solutions to challenges caused by the pandemic. Of course, simultaneously drinking wine added to the allure for those on the guestlist, and almost certainly influenced the bonding of what is now a group of firm friends. In the beginning, we weren’t sure where the discussions would go, but very quickly we were introduced to key members of the NHS and things began to snowball as we put together task teams to solve challenges and linked one trust to another. The only rule was ‘no hard sell’ – anyone was welcome to put forward solutions, but these were deliberated on and governed by those with no commercial interest, so that whatever we worked on, it was guaranteed to be the best and quickest solution for the hospital in question.
6 months on, there are no contracts and not a single penny has been charged, but through genuine altruism we’re working on multiple solutions for the NHS and I can honestly say that this has been one of the most rewarding experiments I’ve ever participated in. An enormous part of that is down to the quality and commitment of the incredible human beings who got involved, opened up to the group, shared ideas without selling an agenda, and truly embraced a sense of purpose in a crazy world. We’ve had some incredible sessions and speakers every single week, and I remain extremely grateful and humbled by the experiences of those who truly are the unsung heroes of our crisis, and those who are working towards making a genuine change in how we use our individual platforms for a greater good. I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to highlights:
Tech for Good
At the start of the pandemic, Dr Iain Hennessey, Head of Innovation and Paediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon at Alder Hey articulated the challenges around patient scheduling, and rescheduling, in addition to challenges around staff wellbeing. This session brought home the magnitude of what the NHS were facing up to. Whilst we hadn’t set out to focus entirely on the NHS, the session with Iain set us on course with our initial project teams. Iain’s challenges were mirrored by Dr Raj Sengupta, Consultant Rheumatologist at Royal United Hospitals Bath, with whom the W(h)ine Club are now piloting a project based on the automation of rescheduled patient pathways. Additionally, links to Iain led to an introduction to Great Ormond Street Hospital, for whom we are now automating processes within their Genomics Hub for Rare and Inherited Diseases.
‘Treat Staff Like Rockstars’
Eamonn Sullivan is Chief Nurse at Royal Marsden Hospital. He is also the Director of the ExCel NHS Nightingale Hospital, and earlier this year he was suddenly tasked with a critical mission to set up an emergency facility catering for up to 4,000 COVID-19 patients, which he achieved within 10 days. Immediately after hibernation, Eamonn spoke publicly for the first time about the responsibility he had shouldered and the pressure that came with it. It was an emotionally charged evening.
“We realised this was going to be harrowing for the team. I looked at the Lombardi scenario, and the trauma people suffered by not being around their loved ones. I said from the outset that I would ‘treat our staff like rockstars’ and that’s exactly what we did, we gave them anything they needed to manage physically, mentally and emotionally, as best we could. With the Nightingale London staff based on-site at hotels, away from their families, their support network, it was important to respect each individual. We even arranged for a pint of milk to be dropped off for a team member’s mum who was shielded. We were able to speak with military psychiatrists and psychologists, mental health was at the forefront for all involved. If someone was concerned about something, whether on-site or at home, we fixed it. So, yes, we treated the team like rockstars.”
Situational Leadership and Mental Health
When None Exec Director of The Royal Marsden and W(h)ine Club member, Prof. Martin Elliott, suggested that mental health challenges would soon hit NHS staff, the club was given another area on which to focus. Ed Colver MBE and Roger Morton offered their expertise on two separate evenings as we explored the management of PTSD and how to support those suffering.
As the youngest member of the British Army to have been promoted to Major, Ed understands the challenges of leading a team through incredible hardship, including the time a large number of his team were lost in an IED incident in Afghanistan. Linking the conversation, Roger was responsible for writing the original mental health policy for the Armed Forces which includes the TRiM policy, a peer support system designed to help people cope with a major incident.
TRiM is now being used at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Roger and Ed are heading up a campaign which would see that and other support mechanisms rolled across the NHS on a National scale, supported by the technology represented within the W(h)ine Club.
Forced Organ Harvesting in China
In the Western world, to donate an organ to save another is the height of personal sacrifice and generosity. But what if that choice was taken from you? On his second talk, Prof. Martin Elliott took the group through his involvement with The China Tribunal in an effort to raise awareness of forced organ harvesting for profit, from prisoners of conscience in China. The discussion ignited debate on responsible trading and how technology might eradicate media censorship and amplify the voices of those needing to be heard.
Martin deliberated for 3 months before joining the tribunal, acutely aware of the personal danger it might bring to him and his family. Though tangential from the NHS focussed discussions of previous meetings, Martin inspired the W(h)ine Club to consider how else we might support other charities, not for profits and humanitarian initiatives as the group’s work evolves.
Optimism and Pessimism
Dr Elaine Fox, Professor at Oxford University and author of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, is a world renowned expert on the psychology of optimism and pessimism. Elaine discussed her decades of research in relation to why some of us are glass half full or empty in relation to situational leadership, and how we can coach ourselves and others to manage certain natural behaviours. Of course human behaviour is critical to the development of true ‘AI’, so topics like this struck chords on a number of levels, while continuing to support tech for good. Additionally, the group went on to speak with elite sports coach Dr Chris Shambrook, former psychologist to the British Olympic Rowing team, about performance under pressure and linked this discussion to a presentation from Rewire, elite sports technologists. Multiple conversations are now underway as to how we combine our knowledge and technologies to develop talent, predict fatigue and improve wellbeing at work.
Onwards and Upwards
Although in the midst of a short break to allow our brains and livers to recover, W(h)ine Club continues to evolve and the friendships are permanent. The easing of restrictions has meant I’ve been able to meet a couple of members in person (I cannot tell you how hard it was not to hug them!), and in just under two weeks a number of us are cycling UK Coast to Coast in aid of Great Ormond Street (please donate here if you can!).
As yet, I’m not sure when we will be able to meet face to face as an entire group, but I’ve seen enough from our little community to know we’ll endure until then. My plan is to throw open our doors to charities, NFPs and other benevolent organisations to give them the opportunity to share a problem statement that we might address free of charge within the group. If a discreet bit of pro bono work can evidence value and secure additional funding for those entities, that’s the holy grail for me and I’m keen to speak with anyone who thinks they can help.
Finally, the biggest, heartfelt THANK YOU to all of our members and guests who have given me something to look forward to in difficult times. Bring on ‘Phase Two’!.....
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