Focussing on training and development

As NHS employees, we are part of one of the largest organisations in the world – a team of over 1.3 million staff, and around 18,000 of us work and volunteer within Newcastle Hospitals, making us the largest employer in the city.

With that in mind, the role we have in supporting people to gain skills, knowledge and experience couldn’t be more vital. It’s essential that we invest in our people to ensure that they have the skills and knowledge they need to deliver high-quality care to patients. We need to invest in ongoing training and development and ensure that staff have access to the latest evidence-based practice and technology. This in turn helps in attracting and retaining the best people. Alongside this – and equally important – we need to ensure that our workforce is diverse and inclusive, reflecting the communities we serve.

Over the past fortnight we have made some significant steps forward to help us achieve these goals and support the whole of our workforce.

Our new training centres

As a leading teaching hospital, responsible for training the next generation of staff, it’s important to us and to our patients that we provide the best possible learning environment and facilities. So, it was fantastic to see our two new training centres welcome their first learners recently. The new centres are based at the Freeman Hospital and at Eldon Court in Newcastle city centre which is just a 7 minute walk from the RVI.

I was delighted to take part in the official opening of the Eldon Court centre, to meet some of the team involved and see first-hand the wide range of training and education options available.

The investment we’ve made in these centres illustrates our commitment to the continued provision of high-quality services and care. Between them, the facilities will provide thousands of clinical and non-clinical learning opportunities each month.

Across the two sites, colleagues can access the latest technology and equipment in ‘real-life’ training spaces, including:

  • replica four-bed hospital bays with nurses’ station
  • hi-tech simulation facilities
  • outpatient consultation rooms
  • replica operating theatre
  • adaptable lecture space and meeting rooms
  • recording studio
  • IT training rooms
  • virtual teaching options.

It’s worth remembering that every single member of our staff will access one or both of the centres during their time in the organisation. The first learners in the centre shared their experiences with local media and talked about the confidence they felt from being able to practice their skills in these simulated environments – which really are very similar to a ward or clinic, including all the same technology that is in use in clinical practice.

It was also lovely to see the pride of everyone involved in the project – including the estates team, architects and building team, IT colleagues and of course everyone in the training department, plus many others.

Thank you to everyone – you have done a superb job. A special mention must go to Julie Raine, deputy head of workforce development, who has overseen the project from day one.

I’m absolutely delighted that we can now offer purpose-built environments, equipped with the latest technology, where colleagues can take part in learning and development opportunities ranging from universal training to complex programmes and specialist courses.

There are many other exciting developments which are aimed at supporting the professional and clinical development of all staff. Most people will now have accessed The Learning Lab – our virtual learning environment which we have developed in-house to make online training, including statutory and mandatory training, much easier to access. The VLE is available to everyone through the link on the intranet or here and gives quick and direct access to a huge range of development opportunities and courses.

Clinical Skills Academy

You may also have heard about Newcastle Clinical Skills Academy, which provides development opportunities for our nursing, midwifery and allied health professional staff. Since Continuing Professional Development (CPD) funding became available we have approved 2,589 applications from staff who have benefitted from this to access a wide range of learning opportunities from top-up degrees, masters level qualifications, masterclasses, conferences, clinical and non-clinical qualifications, and non-accredited activities through the academy.

There really are so many opportunities to access stretching developmental activities – and I hope that many more members of the team will look for these opportunities to continue to develop. Additional funding has been secured and NMAHP staff can apply before the deadline on 31 March 2024.

Newcastle Surgical Training Centre

The Newcastle Surgical Training Centre has always been at the forefront of innovation, developing pioneering training courses to support NHS staff from across the UK.

Most recently the team have partnered with Intuitive to launch a programme to train the next generation of robotic surgeons. The first of its kind in the UK – the programme supports trainees from across our region to gain hands-on experience of robotic surgery. It enables trainee surgeons to begin robotic surgery much earlier in their careers rather than after they qualify and recently featured in the Times!

Huge congratulations to everyone involved in developing this opportunity for our trainees.

Our Leadership Congress

Earlier this month (1 June), I was delighted to open our most recent Leadership Congress, an event where leaders and others interested in leadership can come together to consider the next steps we can take to tackle some of the challenges and opportunities we have together. This important session brought together over 130 people to focus on the issue of equality, diversity and inclusion and how we can do much more to become an inclusive organisation that challenges discrimination and enables everyone to fulfil their potential.

We heard moving and sometimes painful testimonies from members of the team who have experienced the best and the worst experiences during their working lives, and I am incredibly grateful to them for being brave enough to share their very honest and emotional experiences. As a gay woman, I can relate to some of the experiences that were shared, and well remember how difficult it feels when a colleague makes a thoughtless, or a discriminatory remark and the impact that has.

Creating a welcoming organisation is everyone’s responsibility and we all have a duty to work in line with our trust values – ‘We are inclusive – Everyone is welcome here. We value and celebrate diversity, challenge discrimination and support equality. We actively listen to different voices.’

Among the important discussions at the event, we reflected on the role that everyone can play in ‘Calling In and Calling Out’ when remarks are made – either by other colleagues or by patients. I’ve included some more about this concept here which I hope everyone can reflect upon so that we can all consider how to be better colleagues and allies.

The Sensational Thinking Project

The Sensational Thinking Project was established within the Newcastle upon Tyne community occupational therapy team in 2018. Initially this was in response to a significant increase of referrals to occupational therapy for children experiencing sensory processing differences which were impacting upon their engagement in everyday activities, function and development.

With the support of the wider OT team, along with funding received from The Great North Children’s Hospital ‘Bright Ideas Award’, it has grown with the development and delivery of comprehensive training packages available for parents, schools and practitioners.

In 2021, the project was awarded funding from NHS England and this has supported the development of a model for the acute paediatric hospital that fosters and nurtures sensory friendly environments and experiences. This work is co-produced with relevant stakeholders and is also in partnership with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital.

Currently, occupational therapist Cheryl Gascoigne is leading on this exciting initiative, and she has provided a focus on completing sensory-based environmental assessments within the paediatric wards, and creating more welcoming spaces for our patients and families. I really enjoyed learning more about the project during their recent celebration event. A highlight was meeting Joshua and his mum, who are supporting the clinical team. Joshua has created a short video about his experiences in hospital and how the environment affects him and others with sensory processing issues. I would recommend that everyone takes a few minutes to watch.

The project has received generous support from a number of local businesses and teams including Team Evie, Newcastle United Football Club and of course Newcastle Hospitals Charity.

Newcastle Health Innovation Partners go #Red4Research

Today (16 June 2023) marks #Red4Research day, bringing together all those involved, undertaking, and supporting research. Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP) works collaboratively to translate world-class research and innovation into real world benefit, so raising awareness for all those contributing to research with #Red4Research is crucial.

To signify our support, key individuals from across our partner organisations have come together by wearing #Red4Research to celebrate the incredible work that takes place all year round to advance healthcare. Newcastle is a centre of research excellence, so to symbolise the importance of research and raise awareness within the city, Newcastle Civic Centre and Newcastle Tyne Bridge will also be lit up in red.

Ensuring the right people get into research is of huge importance to NHIP for the benefit of our area. Through NHIP Academy, we support the next generation of researchers and academic leaders in health and care to access career development opportunities. The Academy operates across the spectrum of health and care research and at all stages from pre-doctoral onwards.

NHIP’s Chief Operating Officer Hannah Powell said: “Research is fundamental for us to provide the best possible care for patients and services for the public. Without research, we would never discover innovative advancements and solutions to improve the health care system. #Red4Research is the perfect opportunity to showcase how much we appreciate those who are involved in research across our partnership.”

Celebrating our Armed Forces community

Next week is Armed Forces Week, which here at Newcastle Hospitals, celebrates members of the Armed Forces community including our staff, patients and their family members. In March this year, we were proud to be re-accredited by the Veterans Covenant Healthcare Alliance, as a Veteran Aware organisation, affirming our commitment to providing the best standards of care to the Armed Forces community – past and present – and their families based on the principles of the Armed Forces Covenant.

I know we very much value the extra skills and experience that our Armed Forces colleagues and Reservists bring to our organisation – thank you for everything you do.

75 years of our NHS

On 5 July, the NHS celebrates its 75th anniversary.

In 1948, the NHS was founded as the first universal health system available to all, free at the point of delivery. Across England, the service now has over a million patient contacts a day – with 8,000 of these taking place in Newcastle Hospitals.

The changes seen over the last 75 years have been remarkable, as the NHS continues to innovate and adapt to meet the needs of each new generation. Here in Newcastle, we see this innovation and high-quality care every day as our teams continuously improve services for patients and find ways to adapt to the challenges that face us.

I know how proud we all are to be part of the NHS.

Over the next few weeks, we will be sharing further information on the intranet about how we will mark the 75th anniversary at Newcastle Hospitals with activities planned across our sites and in the wider city.

50 years of voluntary service

Congratulations to David Nicholson who has marked 50 years of voluntary service with Radio Tyneside.

David joined the the hospital and community radio station for Newcastle upon Tyne, in 1973 after a chance meeting with the late Mike Neville who was their President at the time.

He started presenting programmes before becoming the Station Manager. Over the years, Dave has seen the organisation grow winning many awards, including the Queens Award for Voluntary Service, a Lifetime Achievement from the Radio Academy, and from the National Hospital Broadcasting Association. In 1997, he was also presented with the Lord Mayor 800 award by Newcastle City Council and last year, the now King Charles awarded him an OBE for his services to Radio Tyneside.

Over the years, Radio Tyneside has progressed from being purely a hospital broadcasting service to the RVI, Freeman and Queen Elizabeth hospitals, to now a community radio station, covering the whole of the area, including the hospitals, broadcasting 24 hours a day and was awarded the community radio license in 2018.

Dave says: “I am honoured to have worked with so many hard-working volunteers, who have made Radio Tyneside the successful station that it is now. I am also very proud of what Radio Tyneside has achieved over the years.”