WHEN people visit Warrington Hospital, it is the friendliness and warmth of the staff that they comment on the most.

This is what outgoing chief executive Mel Pickup will miss greatly.

After almost nine years at the helm of the hospital, she will stand down today, Thursday before starting her new role as chief executive of Bradford Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust.

Mel started her career as an 18-year-old student nurse in Barnsley and from there, moved around the north to Wakefield, Rochdale, Doncaster, Rotherham and Wigan.

Warrington Guardian:

Mel in her student nurse days

She became director of nursing in Rotherham before entering her first chief executive position at the Walton Centre in 2007.

On making the move from clinical to managerial work, she said: “I’m still a registered nurse, I do love the patient contact.

‘I’m leaving on a high with the confidence that the organisation is probably in the best shape it’s been in for the past four years, it makes me feel like my work here is done’

Mel Pickup

“Ultimately I moved away from clinical practice in the mid 90s because I thought I could have more of an impact on more patients by helping others to develop their own clinical practise and manage those individuals.

“I can empathise more with some of the pressures and demands staff have and the emotional stresses which go with being a clinical professional, such as giving bad news or comforting families.

“Those insights are more helpful to me as a chief exec.”

Compared to the average tenure of chief executives, nine years is a long time to remain.

Mel said: “It always felt like there was work to be done, we were always striving for the next thing whether that was to improve A&E, the buildings or the CQC inspection.

“The staff here are very warm and friendly and are a great bunch of people to work with.

“Other times in my career I have stayed somewhere for a much shorter time because there is a feel to an organisation and sometimes you just don’t fit.

“When you get a bit older you think of how many big jobs you have left before you retire.

“My stepchildren are older now and my family are still over in Yorkshire.

“You don’t just go for personal reasons, you go when you find an organisation that’s similar to Warrington. Bradford’s cultural values are the same and what it is trying to do.”

Acquiring back the Cheshire and Mersey treatment centre from the private sector has been a particular highlight for Mel but more recently, the hospital’s glowing CQC report is a standout.

She said: “I’m leaving on a high with the confidence that the organisation is probably in the best shape it’s been in for the past four years, it makes me feel like my work here is done.

“I can hand over to my successor certain that the team they inherit are still rolling towards an outstanding CQC.

“We have proved we can do it.

“Everything we have achieved is despite of our buildings and our facilities.

Warrington Guardian: NHS 70: Warrington Hospital's Kendrick wing

The Kendrick win at the hospital dates back to the 1800s

“It would be fantastic to see a new hospital.

“I fully hope to come back in a few years and look around it.

“We do really need it and it is a regret that we didn’t get any money in the latest announcement.

“We need to keep the pressure on. Warrington is a growing and ambitious town and it needs the health and care infrastructure to support it if it is to continue to thrive.

“It is important for us to lobby at every opportunity for that.”

Moving forward, Mel accepts the Trust still faces challenges in terms of funding versus the increase in demand as the population grows in age and size.

It will be difficult to recruit staff in some specialities and for several years the hospital has not been recruiting and training staff in sufficient numbers to meet the need of the health services required.

On the contentious car parking issue, Mel said: “I would have loved to been able to fix car parking.

Warrington Guardian:

Parking remains a controversial topic

“We can’t grow out but we might be able to grow upwards and maybe now is the time to do that. The demand for parking is pretty insatiable.”

But it is the staff which make Warrington Hospital the place it is.

Mel said: “The overriding thing people leave with is the staff being so friendly and helpful and that translates not just in a chance encounter for directions but right down to giving the most compassionate care to some of the most vulnerable people at their most vulnerable times.”