Celebrating our history and building our future

It’s been lovely to see the preparations being put in place across the trust ready to mark the Queens Platinum Jubilee next weekend. Seventy years of dedicated service is worthy of celebration and it’s remarkable to think back over the history that Her Majesty has seen during her reign.

Over the long bank holiday weekend there are tea parties and other events planned across our services and I know that many of us will be taking part in events at home with our families. Thank you to everyone who will be at work to support our patients over this special weekend.

We are inviting staff, to take part in a 70k your way challenge. It’s a fun, light-hearted opportunity for us all to move a bit more during June. You can run, walk, swim – simply reach the 70k target your way. You can even monitor your progress on our royal map. Look out for more information next week.

Our history

We have been looking back to see how the coronation was celebrated in our hospitals back on 2nd June 1953. Although we don’t have any film from coronation day, I was reminded this week of the video ‘just another day’ from 1957 which gives us a fascinating glimpse into our organisation in that decade.

Of course, treatments and practice has been dramatically modernised over the last 70 years, but I was interested to see some things that felt very familiar – especially the importance of the whole team, and the unrelenting focus on supporting our patients. See what you think as we compare and contrast the ‘old’ and ‘new’ in a short film we have produced.

Our core values are fundamentally the same as they were then, and I suspect they will continue to serve us well over the next 70 years.

Looking to the future

The focus on research and innovation that we see in the film also links the generations. Last Friday was International Clinical Trials Day – a fantastic opportunity to focus on research, to say ‘thank you’ to everyone who carries out clinical research and to acknowledge all who volunteer to take part in clinical trials.

I’m incredibly proud of the hard work and dedication of colleagues involved in research, both in the trust and those we work closely with in our partner universities. I was delighted to see that both Newcastle and Northumbria universities were recognised for their research strength in the recent REF results which is an impressive achievement and an important strength for the city.

For decades, financial investment into research in the UK has been over-concentrated in specific areas, particularly the South East of England. It’s time to challenge that, and through the Governments ‘Levelling up’ ambitions, we are working hard to bring more research funding to the North.

Recently I have been involved in some important bids for multi-million-pound investments to support research which we hope to hear about soon, but I know we are well placed to be successful.

Research is important because of the broader benefits to health of clinical research which goes beyond the scientific breakthroughs and the discovery of new treatments. It also plays a key role in improving patient care and patient experience, and equally importantly it helps to drive up staff satisfaction, career progression and retention.

Our research programme at Newcastle Hospitals is nationally and internationally recognised in many areas including ageing, cancer, child health, robotic surgery, transplantation and rare diseases to name but a few. In September 2021, we launched our five-year Clinical Research Strategy, setting out how we will collectively embed research across the trust to ultimately create a better future for our patients, staff, and communities.

The Directorate of Clinical Research are busy leading the implementation of that strategy with large-scale projects expected to have significant reach and impact across the Trust over the coming months.

Despite the challenges brought on by the pandemic, our teams have continued to deliver world-class research at scale, with over 12,200 participants recruited across 2021/2022. We are very proud of our achievements and the commitment colleagues have shown in recent months and years to continue to develop our outstanding research programmes.

In 2020, Newcastle Health Innovation Partners became one of eight Academic Health Science Centres in the UK – a prestigious designation which has already made a significant impact in terms of improving local health, wealth and wellbeing with an update on progress to be provided at an event on 13 June, which can be booked here

One recent NHIP achievement has been the appointment of five joint senior NHIP clinical fellowships to aspiring clinical academics with a vision to help translate research into real-world benefit.

One of these five clinical academic fellows, Dr Tom Hellyer, honorary consultant anaesthetist, has already been awarded a £1.9million grant from NIHR to deliver a large-scale study across the UK to determine whether antibiotic exposure in critically ill patients with sepsis can be safely reduced by shortening the duration of the initial course.

Elsewhere in the partnership, Professor Chris Harding, consultant urological surgeon at the Trust and honorary clinical senior lecturer at Newcastle University, has recently successfully led a study which showed that an antiseptic is an effective alternative to standard antibiotic treatment for preventing recurrent urinary tract infections in women.

We also continue to be recognised for our ‘firsts’ in research. Within the UK we have had two patients undergoing a pioneering new treatment for liver cancer in a partnership between the Trust and St James’s Hospital in Leeds as part of US-based HistoSonics’ #HOPE4LIVER study. These patients received a form of therapeutic-focused ultrasound, to destroy targeted primary and metastatic liver tumours without the need for invasive incisions or needles.

The John Walton Muscular Dystrophy Centre and the NIHR Newcastle Research Clinical Research Facility has then dosed the first patient in Europe as part of a clinical trial to find treatments for a rare condition called Pompe disease.

We have also seen the world-first spinal operation performed as part of the BRAIVE IDE study which tests the effectiveness of a new device designed to correct spinal scoliosis in children – while allowing the spine to continue to grow.

Cancer research teams are working in partnership with The Christie NHS Foundation Trust on a national research study, funded by the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation and The Christie Charity, which uses a blood test to match cancer patients with the right clinical trial for them.

Building on our robotic surgery credentials, we are also now part of a major national study which will compare traditional methods of knee replacement with a surgeon using a robotic arm.

Of course. research would not be possible without the people who volunteer their time to take part in trials. I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to watch this video Mobilise-D – Participating in our Clinical Study – YouTube where research participant, John, shares his experience of taking part in a study with research physiotherapist, Phil Brown. The video is a timely reminder of the importance of research and the difference it can make to peoples’ lives.

Through our charity, Newcastle Hospitals Charity, we have recently invested £3.2million to support nurses, midwives and Allied Health professionals to make space for research through an institute dedicated to the progression of research talent amongst this group of staff. You can find out more information here.

We have many opportunities for everyone to get involved in research – it’s a way that we can all change the future and bring hope to our patients. I’ll give the final word to John, who shares his motivation for taking part in research.

“We’ve all benefitted form people taking part in research, and its incumbent on all of us to take part if we can.”

Celebrating Excellence Awards

I’m delighted to share with you that nominations open today for our Celebrating Excellence Awards 2022 which, unfortunately, have been put on hold for the last couple of years due to the pandemic.

This is a wonderful event, full of pride and a sprinkle of glamour, and I’m delighted that we are able to bring it back again this September, funded almost entirely by sponsorship.

Our last awards ceremony was held in 2019 and staff who attended told me how proud they were to be part of the Newcastle team and how overwhelmed they were to be recognised by being shortlisted.

Celebrating our success is really important – particularly after the challenges we have faced over the last two years, itgives us time to reflect on the things we do well, and the people and teams who make a real difference here.

This year, there are 14 awards that you can nominate colleagues for and I’m looking forward to seeing lots of entries. Further information is available here

Celebrating our volunteers

Next Wednesday, marks the start of Volunteers’ Week and is a perfect opportunity to say thank you to our team of volunteers who make such a difference to staff and patients.

The pandemic has further highlighted the power of giving up some of your own time to help others and our volunteers contributed over 165,000 hours to support our services and those of the North East and North Cumbria vaccination programme.

Some of the ways in which the team has helped us include:

  • Transporting medication to patients across our communities
  • Providing a post discharge follow-up phone call service to some patients returning home from their hospital stay with the aim of improving patient and family satisfaction and help to decrease readmission rates
  • Helping to keep people safe by providing masks and gel to visitors /patients arriving at our entrances

We also had the privilege of celebrating the 90th birthday of one of our volunteers last week.

Pat Dodds has devoted over 40 years to the Freeman Hospital as a volunteer and her roles have been numerous – starting in the chemists to providing flower arrangements, chatting with patients on the wards, working in ENT and main outpatients and, more recently, providing support to the chaplaincy team.

As a surprise for her birthday and to thank Pat for everything she’s done over the years, the outpatients team bought her some gifts, flowers and a cake – plus a tiara and a 90th birthday sash which she proudly wore in the hospital.

“I started volunteering when I was working at Bowey’s the Builders, who built part of the Freeman,” said Pat

“One of the Director’s secretaries was a volunteer and said why don’t you come along and help and I’ve been here ever since. I love volunteering – I feel like I’m doing something good and helping people – it really is the most rewarding job I’ve had. I look at the hospital and all the people in it as my home from home and have every intention to be volunteering when I’m 100!”

You can find out more about how volunteers contribute to the delivery of health care in a newly published Kings Fund Report: How can a strategic approach to volunteering in NHS trusts add value? (May 2022).

If you are interested in finding out more about the Volunteer Service and how volunteers can add value to your service, either come along to one of the following events, visit our volunteer webpage or email [email protected]

  • Wednesday 1 June – Outside Medicinema, RVI
  • Monday 6 June – NCCC, Freeman Hospital
  • Wednesday 7 June – Outside Medicinema, RVI

QI case study

Continuous quality improvement is an integral part of everyone’s daily work and we want to support our colleagues to think differently, be innovative and lead change.

Newcastle Improvement aims to support staff looking to make things better at work, using the following approach which is designed to transform improvement ideas into a reality:

If you have a change idea and would like to speak with the Newcastle Improvement team, please email [email protected]. You can also find out more about the learning options available to help support colleagues in Quality Improvement here:

Thanks also to everyone who attended the latest Learning and Sharing event last week – if you did miss the event you can still view the recording here.

Opening of new staff bistro – Leazes Wing

I’m delighted to share that the new staff bistro in the Leazes Wing is now open with a range of hot foods, sandwiches, salads and cakes, including our catering teams’ famous scones.

A lot of hard work and commitment has gone into opening this new facility and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this project –
it has made a huge difference for colleagues.

At present, opening times are 7.30am to 4pm and 8pm to 4am, seven days a week. In late June, we anticipate this will be open 24/7 and plans are also underway to open a conservatory section in the summer. Our Peacock Hall bistro also remains open for staff but has reverted back to its traditional opening times of 7.30am until 2.30pm, Monday to Friday.

Awards and achievements

  • This month, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) launched a £20million set of research units in the UK across blood, organs, plasma, and stem cells – one of which is in Newcastle.Newcastle University is receiving almost £2million for a cutting-edge research unit focused on organ donation to help improve the outcomes for patients waiting for and receiving transplants. Collaboration between the university and the Trust will be a key part of delivering the unit’s aims to increase the number of organs available, improve long-term outcomes and enhance quality of life after transplant.
  • Clinicians and researchers at the North of England Bone and Soft Tissue Tumour Service, which is part of the Trust, have secured £1.4million from the NIHR, to trial a method that uses a harmless green dye to illuminate tumours under a special infrared camera. Consultant orthopaedic surgeon Mr Kenny Rankin is leading this research which, ultimately, could reduce the impact of sarcoma surgery on patients.
  • A warm welcome to Newcastle’s third cohort of Registered Nurse Degree Apprentices who recently started their journey. This innovative initiative supports our nursing associates and assistant practitioners to become fully qualified nurses and you can find out more here
  • Last week saw the launch of the Integrated Care for Cleaner Air initiative – a pilot project in the North East and North Cumbria that aims to drive air quality improvement at an NHS systems level. Our immediate ambition is to secure a healthier future for three million people across the region and further details are available here.