A momentous week

This week has been dominated by positive news as the first COVID-19 vaccines were given in the UK.

Newcastle Hospitals is playing an important part in this, operating with partners as the COVID-19 vaccination programme for the North East and North Cumbria.

Credit: Press Association

It was a very emotional moment to see our first patients Dr Hari Shukla and his wife Ranjan receive their injections from Suzanne Medows at the RVI on Tuesday morning. They were so grateful and optimistic about the opportunity for the vaccine to return our lives to something more ‘normal’.

I’m sure that you saw some of the significant media coverage we received, and I would recommend you watch this piece from Sky about our first staff member to receive a vaccine – Barbara Lamb, a specialist nurse from Newcastle Eye Clinic.

The film also makes the point very well, that the vaccine programme will not provide a quick fix to this pandemic. We all need to maintain the highest standards of infection control, both at work and at home, to keep us all safe from COVID-19 over the winter and into next year.

This week we will vaccinate 975 staff and patients, which is the full amount of vaccine we received. Staff vaccines will be prioritised to those who are at higher risk of the effects of COVID-19 and they will be invited to come forward first.

This includes those who are over 65 years old, our black and minority ethnic staff and those who have some long-term health conditions. I know that many people want to receive their vaccine quickly, but I would ask you to be patient. You will be contacted when the time comes for you to make an appointment and you will also find regular updates about the vaccine in the covid updates. I hope that the information you have seen widely reported in the press will give you, and our patients, confidence in the vaccine.

What is not always apparent from the coverage is the high degree of collaboration which supports this herculean effort!

As the ‘strategic vaccine operations centre’ we have worked with our colleagues in NHS Trusts across the North East and North Cumbria to help them prepare for the role that they will play in the vaccination of their staff and patients.

Closer still to patients’ homes, GPs and Primary Care Networks will play a major role in supplying the vaccine to their patients from next week. Local Authorities will also be engaged in this work helping to support the logistics and co-ordination and many volunteers have stepped forward to help. This next phase of our response to the coronavirus will truly be a team effort and I know that the North East will come together to meet this challenge as we always do.

Collaborative Newcastle

Working in partnership is an important part of our strategy. We’ve invested a great deal of time and energy into working with our partners in Newcastle – especially the City Council, CCG, primary care universities, and the voluntary sector.

We have been working together to create ‘Collaborative Newcastle’ for the last few years and this month reached a major milestone as the boards and governing bodies in the collaborative signed up to a formal agreement which will underpin our work in the future.

This agreement will enable us to put in place a shared financial, governance and contractual framework for delivering integrated health and social care, support and community services for our residents.

This is so much more than an agreement or framework – it’s a way of working and expresses our shared commitment to work together, wrapping care and support around our communities.

Our ambition is to improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of Newcastle citizens and reduce the widening inequalities that too many people experience. A great example is how we’ve focussed on collectively supporting our care homes in Newcastle which has been so important over the course of the pandemic.

We have established close, effective relationships and ways of working that will continue. We are ‘one system, one team’ – here for those we serve – and we’re looking forward to launching ‘Collaborative Newcastle’ formally next week.

The way we are working in Newcastle bodes well for our future and aligns well with the direction of travel set out by NHS England and Improvement in their recent document ‘Integrating care- building strong and effective integrated care systems across England.’  This sets out how the NHS might look as we move out of the pandemic response.

Some examples of our Collaboration and Partnerships include:

  • Collaborative Newcastle – a new formed arrangement stepping up our commitment to work together as ‘one team’ across all health and care services. Our teams are co-located and we share data and systems. We have agreed priorities and actions. This year we have stepped up to work and support our care home sector.
  • North Integrated Care Partnership – working with health providers across Northumberland, Newcastle, Gateshead and North Tyneside to provide the best care and health services for our population of over 1million people. We work together in the development of new and innovative care delivery and the latest example is an ophthalmology and cataract centre due to open soon.
  • North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System – Our integrated care system brings health and social care organisations together to agree joint priorities and decide how to share resources to deliver services in the best possible way. Acute specialist services are provided in an integrated way across our region with partners, particularly South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Research and innovation is boosted through shared infrastructure such as our Academic Health Science Centre, Academic Health Science Network, and Biomedical Research Centre.

Advent calendar

I hope you’re enjoying our advent calendars and are finding ways to bring festive cheer to your teams. Our Jewish colleagues are celebrating Hanukkah at the moment and our advent calendar yesterday marked that celebration.

Newcastle Hospitals Charity

This week we launched the pilot of an online shop to sell our charity merchandise. Every purchase will help us to make a positive difference for our patients, staff and communities.

Awards and Achievements

Congratulations to the following individuals and teams:

  • Dr Bernard Higgins, a consultant in respiratory medicine at the Freeman Hospital, received the 2020 British Thoracic Society medal. This was in recognition to his contribution to the Society (over many years) in a number of key roles including past Chair of the Executive Committee, and more widely for his contribution to respiratory medicine in the UK and internationally – in particular his leadership and commitment to national asthma guidelines.
  • Our pharmacy team have been awarded the Telehealth Award, at this year’s Health Business Awards. Our pharmacists were the first in the UK to use an electronic prescription service.
  • Mr Maniram Ragbir was named Trainer of the Year 2020 by PLASTA (Plastic Surgery Trainees Association). He said: “If my trainee is ever in trouble, and they call me at any time, I’ll be going, whether it is my patient or not.”