As easy as ABC

Our new appointments booking centre supports hundreds of outpatient booking queries every day – it was a pleasure to officially open the centre last week.

Not long after I joined the Trust, we considered a business case to create a centralised booking centre. It was at an early stage of development, with lots of potential, but it was clear that it was a hugely ambitious project which would require input from across the organisation.

So I was delighted to be able to see this brilliant
concept come to fruition as I officially opened the ABC
– Appointments Booking Centre – last Thursday.

As I expected, it’s been the teamwork that has made this approach successful so far, and it was a pleasure to see the pride and enthusiasm of everyone who attended.

The Appointment Booking Centre opened its doors in late May and there has been a rolling programme bringing outpatient booking staff together so that they can work together under one roof.

The centre is now home to four dedicated booking teams who are on hand to respond to the needs of thousands of our patients referred to the Trust from a wide range of sources. They provide a single booking and call handling service for patients who need to attend any of our outpatient clinics and the centre will initially operate between 8.30am and 5pm.

Since opening, the team has taken well over 75,000 calls with an average time to answer of 51 seconds. The centre has also managed over 21,000 new and review appointments, as well as clearing a backlog of approximately 9,000 paper referrals. For many patients, this is the virtual front door to our hospitals, and it’s so important for the first impression to be a positive one.
The staff I spoke to told me about the benefits of working together. They are able to offer mutual support, share knowledge and experience, and deal with tricky situations together. Staff have embraced new IT systems and are developing their knowledge of outpatient services across all directorates. They have worked tirelessly together demonstrating real strength and pride.
Of course the team effort has also stretched right across the Trust. It has involved IT, the transformation team, estates, HR, communications, operations, telecoms, portering and hotel services, and finance and procurement teams to all do their bit. The management teams and outpatient teams across all directorates have also provided tremendous support to the ABC.

There was a real sense of shared pride at the opening event. Pride in a job well done, an achievement which is bigger than the efforts of every individual who contributed, and most importantly, pride in being able to give our patients a better service and make their lives a little bit easier. Well done everyone.

World Patient Safety Day

To mark the launch of the first World Patient Safety Day on Tuesday 17 September we are taking the opportunity to celebrate and showcase all the amazing work that staff across the whole of the Trust do in order to provide the highest possible standard of safe care to our patients.

Healthcare is complex and keeping our patients safe whilst under our care is an important quality priority. This is reflected in the many ongoing projects and workstreams being delivered across the whole organisation with the aim of continuously improving patient safety.

If you would like to help us celebrate this event and to share your work, please contact Jo Ledger, Head of Patient Safety at [email protected]

Sepsis Awareness Month

September is Sepsis Awareness Month, which gives us an opportunity to focus on this important condition. Sepsis is a common and deadly illness and it is also expensive, costing the NHS over £15 billion each year. But the real cost is to patients and their families, and this can be devastating.

Sepsis can be hard to spot, but it is the commonest cause of deterioration within inpatients. Identifying and treating sepsis early has a huge effect on survival rates. Early treatment of patients with the Sepsis 6 treatment pathway reduces the chance of death from 44% to 20%.

We are currently below the 90% target for treating patients in the emergency department and inpatient wards with antibiotics within 60 minutes of identifying Sepsis; so we have the opportunity to make significant improvements in the recognition and treatment of patients with sepsis across the Trust.

On World Sepsis Day (Friday 13 September), there will be awareness raising stalls at the Freeman Hospital and RVI, as well as the following staff talks. Please come along and find out more – it really could be lifesaving.

Freeman – Lecture Theatre 1, Education Centre – 11am-11.30am / 11.30am-midday
RVI – Medicinema – 2pm – 2.30pm / 2.30pm – 3pm

You can find out more information and also access podcasts and videos about sepsis, featuring Newcastle Hospitals staff and patients on the Intranet here

Infection Prevention Achievement

In my last blog I highlighted that we had almost a full year of free from MRSA Bacteraemia and I’m delighted to say that on Saturday 17 August we passed the one-year milestone. This is the first time this has been achieved by the Trust and is testament to the outstanding practice and clinical care that we provide. Something we should all be very proud of.

Paperlite goes live in 58 days – I’ve hearing about this game changing technology and the hard work from clinical teams and our GDE team are putting in to deliver the very best digitally enabled care.

Paperlite 58 days to go

Last week I paid a flying visit to our IT teams at Regent Point, and met the project team supporting the development of our Paperlite programme. We are getting closer and closer to providing fully digitally enabled care as we approach ‘Go Live’ this autumn.

What we are doing here – making the best use of technology – is a game changer. It’s such an important building block for the future and we shouldn’t under-estimate the importance of the legacy we are creating for this generation and the next.

It will enable us to continue to provide outstanding care for our patients, enhancing safety and quality; and supporting people to live healthier lives.

One of the key elements of Paperlite is the introduction of a completely electronic patient record, where every patient encounter is documented digitally, and can then be accessed by other health care professionals immediately – in real time, no matter where they are.

We are investing to make sure that this can happen and have already spent over £3million to provide equipment, computer terminals and other hardware to make sure that clinical areas have sufficient access.

Becoming fully digitally enabled will be a huge undertaking for us all and will need everyone’s commitment, drive and energy. That’s one reason why permanent staff received an extra day’s annual leave following our outstanding CQC result earlier this year. It was given in celebration of our achievements and in anticipation of the hard work to come. I know that the work everyone is putting in will be worth the effort.

Thousands of you have already booked onto your ‘Paperlite’ training sessions. A fantastic response but we need to keep going. If you haven’t booked your training session yet, then please do so. All clinical staff must be trained to use the new enhanced patient record. You will find more information about training and the impressive features of Paperlite on the home page of the Intranet.

Flourish At Newcastle Hospitals

We are now just a few days away from the Great North Run and I can’t wait for it to be here.

It’s wonderful to hear that over 150 of you have signed up to start the weekend with the first ever NHS wave at the Great North 5K. This will be a celebration of activity and I’ve loved hearing about the teams and individuals who have supported each other to take on this challenge. The wave will set off at 8.12am on Saturday morning (7 September) at the Newcastle Quayside.

Then of course Sunday is the big event. We have nearly 260 people taking part in the world’s largest half marathon on behalf of our Trust charities, including the Sir Bobby Robson Fund, Charlie Bear for Cancer Care, The Great North Children’s Hospital and others. On 15 August we held a thank you event for our runners to help them on their way and provide some last minute inspiration. We welcomed Brendan Foster, Lady Elsie Robson and of course Fudge to hear about how that precious sponsor money has been spent for the benefit of our patients.

I know that many other people will be running for other causes or just for fun, volunteering on the route or helping with the medical support on the day. It’s an event where the eyes of the world are on Newcastle and it’s great that we can be so involved.


Providing services 24 hours a day means that sleep will inevitably be disrupted for those who work overnight, and are on call. We know that fatigue can have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing, both physically and mentally, and shouldn’t be accepted as simply being part of working in the health service.

We have a responsibility – and a duty – to look after ourselves so that we can all provide the best, and safest, care for our patients.

That’s why we’re dedicating September to #SleepWell. Our #FlourishAtNewcastleHospitals website has lots of resources to help you understand sleep and help you get a precious extra few minutes.


As well as visiting the Appointments Booking Centre and IT teams, I recently went to Radiology department at the RVI. This extensive team plays an absolutely vital role in supporting almost all of our clinical directorates with diagnostic expertise. I was able to hear about the detailed plans in place to provide state-of-the-art imaging and ensure that our patients are able to access care as quickly as possible.

I was also excited to hear about the staff training and employment campaigns that the team are undertaking, not least their recent European trip to Portugal where they were able to recruit over 15 new colleagues to the team.

Dates for your diary

Review of the Year and AGM – Our Review of the Year and Annual Members meeting takes place on Friday 27 September in the Clinical Education Centre, RVI. Everyone is welcome to visit the stalls showcasing some of our services from 10am – 11am, and the formal meeting will be held from 11am – 12noon. We will be looking back over the achievements of the last 12 months and launching our new Trust vision, values and strategy. Refreshments will be served afterwards in the piano room.

Our next Flourish event is on Thursday 24 October, 2-4pm – Everyone is welcome to attend this event, more details to follow. If you would like to attend please email Michelle Cruickshanks on [email protected]

Our next Leadership Congress takes place on Wednesday 27 November. Please save the date.

BAME Staff Conference will take place on Tuesday 1 October, this is an all-day event. To book a place email: [email protected]

Project Menopause – You’re welcome to join us to chat with other colleagues about menopause and hear from our resident menopause expert Dr Diana Mansour: Monday 16 September, 5pm – 6.30pm at the Piano Room, RVI and Monday 23 September, 5pm – 6.30pm, Function Room 138, Freeman Hospital.

Reward and Recognition

I was delighted to hear that we have been shortlisted for five HSJ awards, including the prestigious ‘Acute or Specialist Trust of the Year’. Our other shortlised teams are:

  • ‘Acute or Specialist Service Redesign Initiative’ – A multidisciplinary team initiative to improve care for rib fracture patients.
  • ‘Connecting Services and Information Award’ – In partnership with Clinithink’s CLiX ENRICH solution, which is used by our clinical research staff to transform how we identify patients for clinical trials.
  • ‘Reservist Support Initiative Award’ – For our work in creating a forces friendly workplace including our active Armed Forces Staff Network.
  • ‘Acute or Specialist Service Redesign Initiative’ – Work by our Paediatric Asthma Team to improve asthma treatment for children and young people across the region.

The awards ceremony will take place in London on Wednesday 6 November. Congratulations and good luck to all our shortlisted teams.

World Transplant Games

A big thank you to all of the staff and patients who have not only been involved in the games, but those who have also helped with media coverage to raise awareness of the importance of having the conversation about organ donation with your family.

ITV Tyne Tees put out a special programme to mark the event, which features some of our patients and staff. You can watch the full programme here.