An Outstanding Week

Some of our Outstanding Newcastle Team.

I must start this week’s blog by passing on my sincere thanks once again to you all – staff, governers and volunteers – for our OUTSTANDING rating from the CQC. It has been wonderful to see the celebrations over the last week or so, with everyone feeling justifiably proud of the results. I have received so many messages from our partners and others right across the health and care system. It is lovely to appreciate for a moment the support we have from so many. If you haven’t yet read our CQC report you can find it here



Every single one of our staff has played a part in achieving this top rating for the second time.

What I have heard as I have walked around our hospitals and services in the last few weeks, is that our patients and our people are central to all we do. I know that by focussing on people as well as quality, performance, finances and partnerships we create a positive culture which will sustain our Outstanding status.

It’s timely that this week has seen the publication of the NHS Interim People Plan which sets out a range of measures to strengthen our NHS workforce. This 74 page document acknowledges the rich diversity of roles in the NHS, and clearly addresses the key challenge – that doing more of what we have always done will not be enough to deliver the promises of the Long Term Plan.

The People Plan doesn’t have all the answers, but it lays the foundations and provides some support on areas which require a national approach. Following the publication of the Long Term plan in January, you might remember that I felt strongly that we needed to take the initiative in Newcastle and not wait for central bodies to provide the answers. I’m pleased to see that our direction of travel is very much in line with this new publication.

Attracting staff to work in the NHS an important starting place for the People Plan, and in Newcastle we have been working hard to recruit staff, locally and from overseas. We’ve been actively encouraging members of communities which have previously struggled to gain employment in the NHS to work with us. On top of that, our #Flourish approach aims to make Newcastle Hospitals the best place to work and to create the right climate here so that each of us is able to stay on top of our game. Interestingly, the People Plan also confirms that a consultation will take place into one of the frustrations I hear about a lot from our consultants – namely the NHS pension scheme. I know this is causing real problems for doctors who want to work extra sessions to increase clinical activity and reduce waiting times, so I’m pleased to see this discussion being opened up.

Meeting multi-talented staff like our Hospital@Night team truly demonstrates why we are Outstanding.

In particular the People Plan looks at tackling nursing shortages. This week I’ve spent some time with our Matrons at their regular Forum thinking about this very issue and hearing about their plans to support trainees to flourish in their careers. I also spent some time with our Hospital at Night Team early on Tuesday morning. I was reminded of my own early days of nursing and my first experiences of working at night. I remember how different the job was overnight, and that it requires different solutions and approaches. I was heartened to hear about the hands on expert care that our multi professional team provides to patients and also the support they provide to staff who might be new to night duty. It was a great example of how a team can make a practical difference to the experience of clinicians in the Trust.

Leadership is another key theme of the People Plan, focussing on system-wide wide engagement and also leadership which embraces the values and behaviours we want to encourage. In my last blog, I highlighted that we have already established a shared leadership programme in the City and our first cohort of leaders is already engaged in this approach and learning together. It’s important to me that we support leadership at all levels because of the positive impact this has on the quality and safety of our services.

Another important challenge for the People Plan is developing a workforce to deliver 21st century care. For us, as a pioneering research centre, the future is already here in many ways. The potential of genomics, digitally enabled care and personalised medicine is already a reality in Newcastle. I know this rapid pace of change will continue. We have plans in place to train 12,000 clinical staff in digital technology as we roll out ‘Paperlite’ later this year – a huge undertaking, but one which will dramatically deliver more efficient and effective care for our patients and a better experience for staff as well.
One thing that can make all of our jobs easier is having a good environment to work in. We have a lot of work to do here, but I’m pleased to say that we had a positive meeting with our PFI partners, Interserve, earlier this week to develop actions in relation to work on improving our facilities management. We also had a strategic discussion with the Board of Directors to consider the broader estates challenges that we need to address. Unfortunately these are not areas we can resolve quickly, but be assured we are putting a great deal of effort into developing a robust plan that will help to make us fit for the future.

I am committed to working hard in Newcastle and nationally to achieve the actions we need to take to ensure that we can all flourish at work in this part of the NHS. Through the various Chief Executive Forums I am involved with, and as a member of the NHS Assembly, I will continue to influence the national direction of travel – but my experience tells me that the real difference will not be made in London. It will be the work that we do here, as a team, that will ensure that our people are the very best in the NHS, now and in the future.


Taking a moment to celebrate with our Outstanding End of Life team who received such positive praise from our CQC inspectors.

Following on from #MindfulMay, we are focussing on celebrating what we do. Whether it’s a
personal achievement, or celebrating our colleagues and teams – we all have a lot to be proud of! I hope that teams will be taking the time to celebrate your contribution to our Outstanding CQC rating as well. You can download resources and posters from the Flourish website here

And of course later this month, for the first time, we’ll be holding our inaugural Celebrating Excellence Awards to recognise the brilliant work of our staff, fundraisers and volunteers. I am really looking forward to meeting our finalists at the ceremony.

Staff join Professor Andrew Cant on his last day at Great North Children’s Hospital and his helper ten-year-old Millie.
Proudly flying the flag at the Freeman Hospital.


SAFER month

June is SAFER month across the Medicine Directorate wards as part of our continued focus on reducing length of stay. SAFER is an approach that helps ward teams to focus on key actions that can minimise time in hospital and support safe discharge home. Using the SAFER toolkit the approaches include estimated date of discharge (EDD), daily board rounds and senior reviews, criteria-led discharge and working to turn active days for the patient from red to green.

The wards have already made significant improvements to length of stay and this all contributes to safer and more effective care and outcomes for our patients. Each team across Freeman & RVI are developing their service improvement ideas and we will meet weekly over June to learn from their experiences and celebrate their success.

A weekly stand-up review meeting now takes place at both RVI & Freeman which gives each ward the opportunity to attend a 10 minute review and showcase their improvement work over the preceding week while looking ahead to the impact they would like to make with support available at the meeting to talk through and unblock any issues.

Awards and achievements

I’m always humbled by our continued commitment and drive to make a real difference to our
patients. Here are some of our latest achievements:

  • Dr Joanna Lawson, recently retired associate specialist in falls and syncope from the RVI, has received the ‘Contribution to the Profession’ Award at this year’s Royal College of Physicians’ Excellence in Patient Care Awards ceremony.
  • This month we treated our first patient with cutting-edge gene replacement therapy as part of a trial that could save the lives of babies born with Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) – a genetic muscular disease.