Christmas Blog

Christmas is fast approaching and it’s lovely to see the Trust looking so festive.

Being in hospital over the Christmas period is particularly difficult for our patients as well as for their family and friends, and I know that everyone will be doing their best to support them and each other through the holidays.

Our services continue to be extremely busy. With cases of flu arriving very early this year, we are seeing higher numbers of very sick patients than we’ve seen before which is impacting throughout our hospitals on all of our services.

Sadly this year there have already been deaths in intensive care units where flu was a factor and I’d urge any member of staff who hasn’t had their flu jab to get one to protect themselves, patients and colleagues.

We’re not quite at the 80% target but 9,339 frontline staff have been vaccinated (76%) – let’s have a final push to get there.Yesterday, I visited our community services at Regent Point, and heard first-hand about the great work that our team are doing to support people with incredibly high levels of complexity to stay well and supported in their homes.

I know that everyone is pulling out all the stops, and I’m grateful for all the hard work and effort each and every one of you is putting in.

I hope that over the next week or so we might all find a few minutes to reflect on the hectic and full year that we’ve had, and find some time to celebrate with our own families.

There have been so many highlights for me in 2019.

The year started with the preparation for our visit from the CQC and a huge amount of hard work went into making sure that the inspectors saw the very best of what we deliver every day.

It was wonderful to receive our second ‘outstanding’ rating in May. I continue to be incredibly proud of that achievement, and hope you are too.

Other major developments included opening our Appointments Booking Centre, declaring a climate emergency and delivering our Paperlite programme – all things that will fundamentally change the way we work, and support us to continue to provide exceptional care now and in the future.

We’ve also delivered some truly world class clinical projects throughout the year. Our international work was highlighted in my blog a few weeks ago and closer to home we’ve received numerous awards including two HSJ Awards for our support to reservists and the BREATHE – Beating Regional Asthma Through Health Education – initiative, as well as a Living North Lifetime Achievement Award for the Institute of Transplantation

Well done again to everyone who has been recognised this year by your professional bodies and other organisations.

Our first Newcastle Hospitals Celebrating Excellence Awards were a real high spot for me, and I was delighted that we were able to celebrate so much exceptional work together.  I’ll be announcing the arrangements for our next awards very soon.

In the wider NHS we’ve seen the publication of the Long Term Plan and I’m looking forward to seeing the NHS People Plan hopefully early next year.  As a member of the NHS Assembly, I’ve been able to influence the direction of travel for our NHS nationally, and I’m confident that we’re in a good position to respond.

In the City, we’ve developed an exciting plan for the ‘CAV’ site with our partners in the University and City Council, and more generally we’ve built close working relationships to begin to improve the Health, Wealth and Wellbeing of our populations.

Working in a more joined up way will require different leadership skills and was a focus of our Leadership Congress. We’ve seen the development of a system-wide leadership programme to develop these new ways of working and thinking.

I’m also pleased that within the Trust, our Flourish Programme has been making an impact.  Flourish is about the way we work here at Newcastle Hospitals and aims to make sure that we can all liberate our full potential at work.

Our staff networks have been a really important part of that and our BAME and Disability conferences, plus our celebration of Newcastle Pride and the launch of Rainbow NHS badges, have made a significant impact. Project Menopause has also focused our minds on supporting women in the workplace as they experience menopause, and has tried to equip them with information to help them navigate this stage of life positively.

Our other important event was our Nursing, Midwifery and AHP conference, Together towards Tomorrow.  Next year is the international year of the nurse and midwife, and I’m looking forward to celebrating my profession throughout 2020.

We’ve also had lots of health and wellbeing opportunities. I had a brilliant day running the Great North Run in September – so good that I’ve signed up to do it again next year! It will be the 40th anniversary of this iconic event in 2020, and we’ll be linking up with the Great Run Company and Brendan Foster to make sure that Newcastle Hospitals has a big presence in both the Great North 10k and 5k so we can build on the great success of our NHS Blue Wave.

Overall it’s been a year of major change, and also small improvements.  Your favourite moment might have been watching our new values video or it might be the fruit and veg stall that’s opened at the RVI – but hopefully there has been a special moment or two for everyone.

What’s most important is that we’ve continued to provide the very best care that we can to our many patients, day in and day out.  I know that’s what we all come to work for and it’s what makes Newcastle Hospitals so very special. I’d like to wish you all a very happy, healthy and peaceful Christmas, and a successful New Year. You can also view my Christmas message to staff here.

Christmas lunches

Great to join colleagues serving Christmas lunch to
our fabulous staff

I had a great time serving Christmas lunches at the RVI last week.  The catering team will serve up an epic 14,747 lunches to staff over two weeks, and that’s before they start on the meals for patients who will be in hospital on the big day itself.

Each day they’ve prepared and served:

  • 270Kg of Potatoes
  • 120Kg of Carrots
  • 100Kg of Sprouts
  • 1300 pigs in blankets
  • 145kg of turkey

Well done to all the team and volunteers!


Last Friday, was the culmination of our #LetsGive campaign and we were overwhelmed by the generosity of staff from all across the Trust. It was incredibly humbling to see the hundreds of items you kindly donated for Newcastle’s East and West Food Banks, and the Dog and Cat Shelter, which were kindly collected and delivered by our transport partner 1NElogistics.

I know that some other teams also collected for other foodbanks and charities and overall we should be very proud that we have been able to give so much back to support local people in need.

Many of you also got into the spirit of Christmas Jumper Day raising money for Newcastle Hospitals Charity or a charity of your choice.  Once again, thank you!

Our Flourish activity for January is all about #Goals as no doubt many staff will be making a few New Year resolutions to spark a positive change. We’ve lots of information about simple lifestyle changes you can make – rather than taking drastic measures – including details about getting involved in this year’s Great North Run activities.


Our ICS lead Alan Foster, visited
the Trust this week to discuss the
issues facing our region.

Thanks to everyone who attended my ‘Health Chat’ with Roy Lilley at the RVI – it was lovely to see so many staff from the Trust and other local NHS services.

On Tuesday, Alan Foster, the Executive Lead for the North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care System (ICS), visited the Trust to discuss the issues facing our region and how we as a major specialist centre support the whole health and care system. He also took the opportunity to get his flu jab during his visit!

Awards and achievements

I was delighted the Trust won the ‘Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare’ award at the 2019 Health Business Awards, which recognise the many examples of innovation and excellence that happen every day in the NHS. The award is presented to ‘an NHS organisation that has achieved success in their role and brought benefits to the wider NHS through their dedication and expertise’ and recognised our second ‘outstanding’ CQC rating earlier this year.

Yesterday we held our Quality & Effectiveness Awards which aimed to provide an awareness of quality improvement within the Trust as well as showcasing some outstanding projects which had been shortlisted for the Audit and Quality prize. Congratulations to the overall winners, our community nursing team, whose work to hugely improve the supply of wound dressings has enhanced patient care and increased staff satisfaction whilst significantly reducing costs and waste.

The runners-up were Dr Rhona Sinclair (managing pre-operative iron deficiency anaemia) and Dr Jayshree Veeratterrapullay from the NCCC for her audit of local practice – time from final surgery to adjuvant radiotherapy in breast cancer.

Congratulations also to Professor Andy Gennery, Paediatric Immunologist, who has been appointed to the Sir James Spence Chair in Child Health following a joint selection process between the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University and the Great North Children’s Hospital.  Andy will act as an advocate for research in child health both in Newcastle and the wider North East/North Cumbria region through the GNC research community and an external ambassador promoting national and international child health research in Newcastle and the North East.

Finally, my next blog will be a week later than usual on Friday 10 January.