15,000 thank yous

This weekend marks both the 72nd birthday of the NHS as well as the beginning of the next phase of easing social distancing requirements. It seems like a great opportunity to pause and reflect on the last six months which have arguably been the most challenging period in our NHS history. I would like to think that Nye Bevan would have been very proud of the way we have responded.

In his book ‘In Place of Fear’ he noted; ‘Society becomes more wholesome, more serene, and spiritually healthier, if it knows that its citizens have at the back of their consciousness the knowledge that not only themselves, but all their fellows, have access, when ill, to the best that medical skill can provide.’

This has been a time when the UK has needed the NHS more than ever. I am confident that across every area of the Trust we have always delivered the very best that medical skill can provide, and we’ve made a significant impact in the city and across the North East.

In my almost 40 years in the NHS, I can’t remember experiencing anything that has come close to the unprecedented efforts and challenges that we have recently experienced. Many people have talked about being on the frontline of a battle against this new and frightening virus, and there have been times when that is exactly how it has felt.

Personally it’s been one of the most intense periods of my leadership career and one that has left me feeling immensely proud of the whole team and incredibly grateful for your efforts.

I’ve been spending time with groups of staff from across the Trust to listen to your experiences, first hand, and every one of those meetings has left me in awe of the hard work, sacrifice and dedication I’ve heard about. It’s been a privilege to gain some insights into the struggles and the joys that different teams have had over the past months.

Many people have taken the time to tell me a personal experience and to share their emotions. I know that everyone copes in different ways and need different amounts and types of help to come to terms with what’s happened.

Fortunately mental health is something that we talk much more openly about now in the UK than we did just a few years ago, and I want to encourage everyone to be open, to seek help if you need it and to care for yourselves and for each other.

Our physiotherapists and critical care teams told me about the pressure of being at the very front line of caring for critically ill patients with very little knowledge of this frightening new disease, and how they needed to develop new treatments very quickly, learning from colleagues around the world.

They told me about the fear and helplessness they felt and this was summed up very eloquently by one of our  physiotherapists, Rachel Stout. Her description of being redeployed into intensive care really gives a taste of this extraordinary experience. Read more here.

I’ve heard from our procurement team and occupational health teams about the unprecedented response they needed to mount to support clinical teams and the responsibility they felt to keep their clinical colleagues safe. I know that this desire to support clinical colleague to the very best of their ability is one that’s common to all our corporate services. 

Our midwives and the wider maternity team talked about the pressure to reinvent an essential service that couldn’t stop because of COVID-19, and the anxiety that created for patients and for the team. They also reflected on the predicted and some surprising changes that have come as a result of the pandemic.

I’ve also kept connected with our BAME and LGBTQ colleagues through our staff networks; some staff talked about their experiences of shielding because of their personal circumstances but still wanting to fully support their colleagues and their patients.

I know that staff across the Trust, in every team and every department, will relate to these experiences and emotions. Everyone has played a part in our response and I want to say a sincere and heartfelt thank you to everyone who has given so much over this extraordinary time.

Seeing the high esteem and regard that the NHS and other key workers have been held in by the public has made us all very proud. I hope that public acknowledgement of your hard work, care and compassion is here to stay.

This Sunday (5 July), the final and hopefully biggest Clap for Carers will take place across the UK at 5pm. I hope that you will join in and take a moment to reflect on the impact that each of us has had individually and as teams to support our local people.

Many of us will also be finding a quiet moment to remember the many lives that have been lost due to COVID-19. One of the cruellest features of this disease is that it has taken away our ability to mourn and remember together. Families have been unable to pay their respects to their loved ones, and I know that many members of staff will have lost someone close to them over the last few months.

Our chaplaincy team is always available to support staff, and I wanted to share this reflection with you that they have created with Martin Wroe. ‘I lift up my eyes’ is a poem based on Psalm 121 and is read for us by actor Kevin Whately. I hope you find it helpful in a quiet moment. 

The chaplaincy team has also has also conducted a short service of reflection to commemorate and celebrate 72 years of the NHS which you can watch here. 

I’ve heard from lots of staff who want to express thanks to the public for all their support and for their hard work. Key workers in social care, local supermarkets, transport providers and many others have been essential parts of our communities.

This week I wrote a thank you letter in the Journal to the public in the North East. Those who provided us with gifts and meals, those who responded to our requests for help with PPE and gowns, and also to those who followed the national advice and stayed at home. We shouldn’t forget or underestimate the vital role that everyone played in controlling the coronavirus.

I hope that over this weekend we will all be able to say thank you to some of the people who have made a difference to us over the last few months. I’ll also be thinking about our amazing NHS which has come through for us once again, and I’m sure will go forward even stronger.

People at our heart awards

I have been humbled to hear about some of the outstanding efforts our staff and volunteers have gone to over the last few months, which have been challenging times, but they have taken it in their stride to continue to provide the very best care.

It only seems fitting that we launched our People at Our Heart Awards this week to capture and recognise some of those efforts of our staff and volunteers – especially over the last few months.

The awards replace the long-standing Personal Touch Awards, and reflect our recent new branding of the  organisation and our ethos of putting patients at the heart of everything we do. If there is a member of staff, team or volunteer who has gone above and beyond their role to make a difference, then simply nominate them for a quarterly award by submitting an online form or pick up a nomination form from a reception area. If you want to find out more about the awards scheme, visit here

Self-help library

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing is not something we should just do if we are struggling or feeling low, anxious or stressed. It’s actually something we should think – and talk about – all the time and really invest in, just like with our physical health.

We now have a series of self-help leaflets for staff which can now be accessed through the following library and are also available in audio format.