THE new boss at Royal Bolton Hospital says being back in the borough is like a “homecoming” as she reflects on starting the job in the midst of a pandemic.

Fiona Noden, who grew up in Tonge Fold, became chief executive of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust two months ago.

Having previously worked at Salford Royal Hospital, Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust, and most recently as chief operating officer at The Christie in Manchester, she knew of Bolton’s reputation.

But speaking 59 days into her new job, she now realises just how good the organisation is, praising staff for their response to the Covid-19 outbreak.

She said: “Growing up in Bolton, I used the organisation many times – I’m extremely clumsy. When I was a little girl, I went to the old Royal Bolton Hospital quite a lot.

“I’ve lived in Bolton and worked in Greater Manchester, so I know a lot of people in the organisation. I knew the organisation was really good.

“When I was applying for the job, the ad said Bolton is a humble place. It had me at humble. Coming into the organisation, I realised how truly fantastic it was.

“The magic that happens here often doesn’t get seen.

“My job is to make sure the people in this organisation are able to promote their services as well – promoting things I want to make sure we are known for in Bolton.”

After attending Crompton Fold primary school and Smithills Grammar, Fiona became a radiographer, working at the old Royal Salford Hospital in 1988.

But she was in her thirties by the time she left Bolton, where her mum and step-dad still live.

She said: “It’s almost like a homecoming. I’m tied to Bolton in so many ways.

“I’ve got a dry sense of humour. I’m very straightforward. I’m quite direct – what you see is what you get.

“The values from my upbringing are the same values that the organisation holds closely.

“I’m in love with the organisation. I think it’s fantastic and our staff are truly amazing.”

Every day since April, the chief executive has awarded teams in the trust and across the health and social care system with the For A Better Bolton awards.

Fiona said this has helped her meet staff in the organisation and beyond despite the difficulties of starting the job during the coronavirus pandemic.

She said: “When I started at the beginning of the pandemic, everybody said it must be really hard but it’s made life easier in some ways.

“Everything has been condensed and I’m meeting people in different ways.

“It was really different, we were seeing so many really different things and making quite quick decisions.

“I realised that our staff were doing so many innovative things and we needed to recognise them, so we started the For A Better Bolton award.

“It was a good opportunity for me to meet people I would have never usually been exposed to.

“People have given over and above for a better Bolton and done truly wonderful things so it’s wonderful to recognise what people have done.

“It’s really important as the chief executive and the leader of the organisation that I need to be really visible. I’ve only worked from home for one day.”

Aside from promoting its services more, Fiona wants to make improvements to the trust’s buildings.

Taking advantage of the lower footfall, work has already started to “spruce up” corridors and make the main entrance “more welcoming”, according to Fiona.

She said: “One area I’d really like to improve is the physical estate of the hospital site. We’ve got quite a poor estate.

“I want to make our site look better so when patients come in, it reflects the services they receive.

“We are doing a bit of work in our corridors to spruce it up and our main entrance to make it more welcoming.

“It’s quite a small thing that will make quite a big impact.

“The staff are so welcoming. The environment needs to reflect that.

“If we can get money for it even better, but I’m not holding my breath there.”