A new era of collaboration

My blog is out a day earlier this week and is a bit shorter due to the approaching bank holiday weekend and, although our services will of course continue 24 hours a day, I hope that each of us will be able to get a break and some restorative time with family and friends over coming days.

It’s been another incredibly pressured week across the trust and I know how hard everyone is working to support our patients.  Although we continue to face significant challenges, we are making strong progress.

Last week we were able to see 519 patients through elective treatment pathways.  It’s the first time we have returned to and exceeded the levels we delivered before the pandemic and is a remarkable achievement which really helps us to make an impact on our long waiting lists.

We now have 108 patients waiting over 104 weeks for care, and we have good plans in place to support these individual patients.  We are also making inroads into our over 52 week and over 72 week waiting lists so that we can make sure no-one is waiting longer than is absolutely necessary.

I’m very grateful to everyone who is supporting this work, both clinical and administrative teams, those with direct patient contact and those experts who support from behind the scenes.

Our urgent and emergency care services and other specialist services all continue to see significantly higher levels of activity – with our attendances in the emergency department for example, being 7% above the pre-pandemic level (with type 1 attendances – the poorliest patients most likely to be admitted – at 21.6% higher). We expect it to be a busy weekend for our emergency pathways.

I want to assure you that myself, the Board and the executive team are all focussed on relieving the pressures we face through whatever means we can, including by advocating for our services with local and specialist commissioners and by raising the awareness of local and national decision makers on the issues that we face.

This week I was delighted to welcome Sam Allen, Chief Executive (designate) of the Integrated Care Board (ICB) to the trust.  Sam visited our intensive care units, maternity, emergency and urgent care departments and spinal surgery at the RVI.

She heard a presentation from the Collaborative Newcastle team and then visited children’s cardio, the new Day Treatment Centre site and cancer services at the Freeman Hospital.  I’m grateful to everyone who joined the visit and shared their knowledge and insights with Sam.

The ICS is a partnership bringing together the NHS, councils, combined authorities, voluntary and partner organisations from right across our region, working in collaboration and looking at new and different ways to work to improve the overall health of the three million people we serve. It provides a way for us to work together on regional issues that need to be tackled at scale.

Sam found the visit invaluable, and particularly enjoyed meeting staff and hearing their first-hand accounts of working in Newcastle.  She commented, ‘It’s clear that Newcastle Hospitals is an amazing place with a strong sense of history and a clear focus on the future.

“The support that tertiary services provide for the whole region and much further afield is apparent in every clinical area that I visited, and it’s important that our specialist services thrive so that our whole population can benefit from world-class care.  There is a palpable pride from all of the staff I met.

“We are entering a new era of collaboration in healthcare where no one part of our system can operate without the others, and the innovation and clinical excellence that I’ve seen today will be a key part of our success.”

Through my links with the Shelford Group I’ve also recently met with Amanda Pritchard and a number of other national figures, so you can be assured that the experiences from Newcastle are being fed in to influence future policy wherever we can.

Today I am also delighted to announce that I have been appointed as Vice Chair of the NHS Confederation, to work alongside Lord Victor Adebowale who is Chair. The NHS Confederation is the membership organisation that brings together, supports and speaks for the whole healthcare system in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

I am delighted to take up this advisory role alongside my role with the trust.   I believe that this is the most crucial period in the NHS’s history and hope that this will be an effective way to contribute to the national discussion, ensuring that the voices of provider organisations in the North East are amplified.

I know that many colleagues have national roles and I am keen to make sure that we have a comprehensive understanding of this so that we can collectively influence effectively and share the excellent practice we create here in Newcastle.

QI case study

Our case study this week focusses on the team from the hepatobiliary unit at the Freeman Hospital who developed a dedicated Enhanced Recovery After Surgery (ERAS) service to reduce the number of days patients need to stay in hospital after liver or pancreatic resection surgery.

The project has improved the post-surgery experience for over 300 cancer patients and has also made efficiencies in the service that equate to a £221,000 recurrent saving. You can read more here.

The next of the very popular learning and sharing events will take place on Thursday (21 April) from 12pm to 1pm and 5pm to 6pm, where you can hear how maternity services are using the ‘What Matters to You’ framework to increase personal and professional satisfaction for staff through improved team working, as well as the role of Newcastle Improvement. Details of how to join these virtual events can be found in InBrief and on the intranet.

What a difference a year makes…

It’s hard to believe but it’s now been over a year since we formally welcomed almost 90 staff from North Cumbria to the team, after taking over leadership of the Northern Centre for Cancer Care (North Cumbria). Together we will be providing one of the biggest combined cancer treatment services in the country.

Over the past year the team has delivered almost 17,000 chemotherapy appointments and just under 10,000 radiotherapy treatments to patients in Carlisle and West Cumberland. Thank you for everything you continue to do to help support our patients.

North East Innovation Lab receives £1.4 million in new funding

I’m very pleased to confirm that the North East Innovation Lab, originally established as part of the region’s integrated Covid hub, has received an investment of £1.4 million to continue work on assessing and validating the next generation of diagnostic tests.

The funding – from the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) and NHS England’s Accelerated Access Collaborative – recognises the successful contribution the innovation lab has already made to evaluating new Covid-19 testing technologies for clients from the UK and around the world.

The lab is part of the trust and is run by a team who specialise in molecular biology, methodology and clinical research.  This new funding means they can continue working with the wider NHS, university and industry clients to provide independent assessment of cutting-edge and emerging diagnostics.

While projects will still include looking at some of the latest developments in Covid testing, the funding means the lab’s remit can expand further to evaluate new surveillance and testing for other viruses and diseases. This work is crucial in helping to stay one step ahead with resilience planning for future pandemics and health threats. You can read more about the lab’s work here.

Finance news

Bill Boa

Bill Boa will join Newcastle Hospitals as interim strategic financial advisor to the trust later this month. His role will be to support us in establishing a new financial plan which enables investment in patient care, quality improvement and productivity gains and the delivery of the savings we are required to meet through the new NHS financial regime.

Our current Director of Finance Angela Dragone will retire in July and Bill’s appointment will provide continuity as we move to appoint our new Chief Financial Officer. Bill is a Chartered Accountant and a highly experienced leader who has served a number of Shelford Trusts as both a director and in an advisory capacity.  He is also a specialist advisor to the CQC and NHS England.

Bill is also a qualified coach and mentor, a Trustee and Treasurer of Arts & Health Southwest and is also a founding Trustee of the National Centre for Creative Health – a charitable incorporated organisation established following the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) report “Creative Health: The Arts for Health and Wellbeing.”

Day treatment centre update

Anyone visiting or working at the Freeman Hospital will see that construction of our new purpose-built day treatment centre is continuing at pace and the building frame is now in place.

Completion of the building is scheduled for August 2022 and we hope the first patients will be treated there from September onwards. The centre will house four new state-of-the-art theatres, along with a dedicated pre-operative ward and post–operative recovery areas, enabling us to provide thousands of additional procedures in specialties such as musculoskeletal health (MSK), urology, surgery and cardiothoracic services.

It will address some of the significant waiting list challenges and backlogs caused by the pandemic, through the transfer of suitable day cases from existing theatre lists to free up space for more complex work.

 Awards and achievements

Congratulations to our IT team and everyone who worked with them to help the trust achieve HIMSS stage 6 accreditation across all our sites, becoming one of only eight NHS organisations to have achieved this level or higher. I know a tremendous amount of hard work and effort has gone into this.

In further good news, we have also been officially accredited as a Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) for fulfilling our commitments as part of the GDE programme with NHS England. Read more here.