An uncomfortable but essential read for us all…

Inequality is a subject that is close to my heart and I’ve written many times in my messages about the importance of tackling health inequalities in our city and in our organisation.

Recent events including the impact of COVID-19, the data from Public Health England’s rapid review into the elevated risks and outcomes for people from BAME backgrounds and the Black Lives Matter movement have brought into sharp focus the discrimination experienced by some members of our community.

Earlier this week, I published our first comprehensive review looking into the pay gaps and career progression experiences by our BAME staff here in Newcastle. We believe that we are the first trust in the country to publish such detailed, transparent and extensive information about this issue.

I want to thank Mr Surash Surash, Consultant Neurosurgeon and Karen Pearce, Head of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, for their hard work in developing this report. Surash has been the driving force behind this work, which began with his enthusiastic tweet back in 2018. You can watch a short video here where Surash explains a little more about the background to the report. I’m particularly grateful for his approach to this work – focussing very clearly on using his findings to make a positive difference.

I’m proud that Newcastle Hospitals has a diverse workforce and that all of our staff are committed to outstanding patient care. However, talking about race equality is still much harder than it should be; both across society and specifically in the NHS. Some of the information in this report makes difficult and uncomfortable reading but it’s important that we reflect on it, be challenged by it and think hard about the active role that we can all play in making the NHS a more equal place for everyone.

I was affected very deeply by the personal testimonies of two members of staff at our recent Trust Management Group meeting, who talked about the life experiences they have had and how their BAME heritage has impacted upon them and their families.

It was heartbreaking to hear the everyday, casual racism they experienced and I know that everyone present was sad to know that some of those experiences took place within our organisation. I want to say very clearly to all of our BAME staff that you are valued and important members of the team, and that racism will not be tolerated. You should not be afraid to speak out if you experience discrimination, and all of us should be empowered to challenge negative perceptions, comments and ‘macroaggressions’ when we see them.

It’s also important that we recognise and celebrate the steps we are actively taking to level up, and ensure that staff members from BAME backgrounds are valued, supported and enabled to progress in their careers fairly. I’m pleased to say that we have made significant and sustained progress, supported very effectively by our BAME staff network.

I’ve highlighted the network in my messages before, and make no apology for doing it again here. They have become an active and important partner in raising awareness and supporting our efforts to improve staff experience, and a critical friend as we take further steps to tackle inequality.  You can find out more about all of our staff networks here

Over the last two years we have hosted our inaugural BAME staff conference, held a BAME staff recruitment event in partnership with other local health organisations and have made sure that we have diverse recruitment panels for key roles, which we plan to roll-out further.

I’m pleased that we have been able to introduce the role of cultural ambassador in line with the Royal College of Nursing programme, which provides independent support as a neutral observer in all formal investigations involving staff from a BAME background. To date, we have trained five cultural ambassadors who provide advice to the investigating team on equality, diversity and cultural bias issues. This is an area where we all need to listen, learn and seek to understand.

Personally I’m taking part in our mentoring programme so that I can hear first-hand from my mentor, Poonam Singh, about her experience, and reflect with her about the actions we can take to foster sustainable change and improvement.

Our conversations have made me really think and helped me to appreciate the barriers that are sometimes difficult to see. I’m grateful to Poonam for her time and wisdom, and also to the other mentors who are investing their efforts into these important conversations.

You can read our full response to our pay gap report here, and I hope you take the time to read it and reflect on the individual contribution that we can all make to ensure that both our staff and patients from diverse backgrounds feel welcome and equal here in Newcastle.


Earlier this week, the leaders of our seven North East local authorities issued a joint statement expressing their concern about the increasing number of positive coronavirus cases across the region. The Government has also announced that social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal from Monday. Further guidance is available here.

No doubt this is a worrying turn of events but the responsibility of preventing a second wave of this pandemic currently sits with us all. Please protect yourselves and others by following the government guidelines around social distancing, wearing a mask or face covering and regularly washing your hands.

During lockdown many of us missed important moments with our loved-ones that we will never get back and also saw the devastating impact that COVID-19 had on families and wider communities. Let’s do everything we can to keep each other safe.

Awards and achievements

Our staff and teams continue to be recognised at both local and national level for the important work they do to enhance patient care and support our services – and colleagues – across our organisation, some of which I have listed below. Congratulations to you all.

  • The team at The Great North Children’s Hospital won the ‘Pharmacy and Medicines Optimisation Award’ in the HSJ Values Awards for their ‘kidzmed project’ which teaches children to swallow. The judges described this as a ‘Brilliant and impressive project which has something so simple but so life-changing at its centre.” You can read more about the project here.
  • The HR team have been shortlisted in the ‘Best Use of Benefits to Support the Employee Experience’ in the Employee Benefits Awards.
  • Janis Bloomer – paediatric clinical nurse specialist for cystic fibrosis – was second place in the ‘Year of the Nurse’ category in the British Journal of Nursing’s Virtual Awards.
  • Laura Arthur has been awarded the first ever Graham Teasdale Medal from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. Laura is a general surgery trainee at the RVI and received the award for excellence in the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons General Surgery Exam.
  • Dr Nicola Leech, Consultant in Diabetes and Metabolic Medicine and her team have been named runners up in the prestigious Rowan Hillson Inpatient Safety Awards.

Newcastle Hospitals Charity funded initiatives to support sta

Throughout this pandemic we have been overwhelmed by the generosity of the public and received many donations, gifts in kind and lovely messages. A significant amount of money was also raised by NHS Charities Together and who could forget Sir Tom Moore raising millions of pounds by walking 100 laps of his garden to mark his 100th birthday!

Newcastle Hospitals Charity – in collaboration with the Trust – has secured funding from NHS Charities Together for a range of initiatives to support staff health and wellbeing and I wanted to share some of these in my blog.

Fruit and Vegetable stall – Freeman. Following on from its success at the RVI, we’ve now got a second fruit and vegetable stall on the Freeman site to help support more colleagues (and patients and visitors) to shop with ease, accessing great fresh produce to support their health and wellbeing.

Sta outdoor seating areas at RVI – New outdoor seating areas can be found outside the Bistro at Peacock Hall and in the outpatients courtyard on level on at the RVI, giving staff the opportunity to take a break outside in the fresh air in a relaxed safe environment.

For more information on our Charity visit