Happy New Year

In my first blog of 2020, I struck an optimistic tone – looking forward to another productive and exciting year and reflecting on the promise of a new decade.

Of course, this was before any of us had really heard of COVID-19, Nightingale hospitals or test and trace.  We have now been treating patients with coronavirus for almost 12 months – the anniversary is in just a few short weeks – and as I’ve said many times, it really was a year like no other.

The turn of the year is often the best time to reflect and plan. It’s an opportunity to review the successes and challenges of the previous year and to think carefully about the appropriate places to focus our energy over the coming 12 months.

The Prime Minister’s announcement earlier this week means we will start 2021 in a way none of us would have hoped. Despite these unprecedented circumstances, the huge uncertainty and personal and professional challenges, it is more important than ever to think ahead.

Whilst for many of us it will feel difficult to do this, perhaps now more than ever we do need to find optimism in the future, whilst of course maintaining our ability to respond and react quickly to unfolding events when we need to.

It will come as no surprise to you that the combination of a third wave of Covid and winter pressures are stretching health and care organisations right across our region.

Clinical and operational leaders are in regular contact with their colleagues in other organisations, and the collaborative working and mutual aid that has kept our region safe through 2020 will, I believe, do the same in 2021.

Never has there been a more important time for us all to work in this way; making shared plans, delivering them collaboratively, and using our available capacity in a way that plays to each of our strengths and supports teams or organisations in difficulty.

This spirit will also be central to our health and care response after the pandemic, in particular as we deal with the treatment backlog that has built up since March.

The Executive Team, Non-Executive Directors and myself, as well as leaders across the Trust are now focussed on how we can move successfully forward through 2021 together.

Staff wellbeing in its widest sense must be our first priority, so that we can support everyone who is feeling exhausted and uncertain of the future. Therefore, it was timely that we published our health and wellbeing strategy this week, which draws on the knowledge and expertise of staff across the Trust.

It’s vital that we do keep listening to staff and responding to your views – only by working together will we continue to make positive changes that really make a difference and enable everyone to flourish at work.

Our high standards of patient care, which we are all rightly so proud of, are entirely dependent on you – our staff – staying well and being supported.  I am honoured to be part of this impressive team, and hugely grateful for the hard work that everyone continues to contribute.

Through November and early December, I held a series of meetings with consultants as part of my programme of regular discussions with staff from across the organisation.

I’m delighted that over 250 doctors have joined those discussions.  They highlighted how hard everyone across our multidisciplinary teams is working and how well teams have come together over the last 12 months.

A key theme was the development of regional clinical networks, often led from Newcastle as the anchor and the specialist trust in the region.  The benefits of this collaborative working has become very apparent in the context of the pandemic where the offers of mutual aid between organisations and within services have allowed us to provide a shared response to shared issues.

Of course, during the pandemic we have had to get to grips with remote, virtual working and consultations, and the difficulty of planning and budgeting into the medium-to-longer terms.

In the sessions we had some honest discussions about the things we need to continue to work on – particularly ensuring that our IT solutions are responsive and intuitive, and that our business developments and innovation pathways are streamlined and enable quick and effective decision making.

It’s a real privilege to lead an organisation that has so much drive and energy for quality, improvement and innovation in all of our clinical leaders.

I’m very grateful to the many staff who have spoken with me this year, in my regular chief executive check-ins, by the emails that you send me, and also as we move about in a socially distant manner.  Please keep sharing your views with your managers and with the executive team.

My final team check in of 2020 was with the research team, which felt very appropriate given the huge contribution they have made to tackling COVID-19 and to developing the vaccine. It was an really inspiring session full of passion for the research they carry out and the lives they save and improve as a result of their work.

Covid vaccine hub

We’ve shown ourselves this year to be an internationally recognised research organisation and work into the safety of the Oxford Vaccine, carried out in Newcastle, has directly supported the roll-out of this vaccine.  I would encourage us all to develop some of the ‘research mindset’ that I saw so clearly. A mindset that is enquiring, optimistic and action focussed and which inspires others to discover.

I’ve heard very strongly from many of you that covid vaccination is the single most important request to help staff feel safe and I’m delighted that we are now in a position to quickly roll-out the vaccine to all staff.

The vaccine programme has been another remarkable achievement, and I’m full of pride to see the impact of that work across the trust and the wider community.  All staff will be able to receive a vaccine over the next few weeks, with high-risk staff prioritised first. Please look out for information in the covid update and direct emails to arrange your appointment – you will be contacted when it’s your turn.

The vaccine continues to be our best chance of bringing some sense of normality to our lives in 2021 – something that all of us long for.

The programme will take some time to deliver across our communities, and in the meantime, it remains vital to ensure that we all play our part in minimising infections both at work and at home.  This is important for both clinical and corporate staff to keep our colleagues, patients and our families’ safe throughout 2021.

Staff rest area – RVI

It is great to see we now have a dedicated space for staff to take a break from their work environment in the Leazes Wing (just past Costa Coffee on the right hand side) at the RVI.

This new facility is available 24/7 where colleagues can take their own food and drink and have some downtime. Thanks to funding from Newcastle Hospitals Charity, the space is equipped with furniture laid out to support staff to socially distance, and would not have been possible without the support of our colleagues from estates, medical records amongst many others.

HSJ Awards 2020

I am delighted to share the Trust has been shortlisted as finalists in two categories of the HSJ AwardsHSJ awards logo 2020, which are:

  • Environmental Sustainability Award – Declaring a Climate Emergency
  • NHS Workplace Race Equality Award – Refocus to Achieve

Final judging will take place at the end of January / early February with the winners announced in March.

#FlourishFit challenge

Towards the end of last year we launched #FlourishFit in partnership with Newcastle Hospitals Charity which is all about our staff and their wellbeing, whereby each month they sign up to take part in a challenge that’s meaningful and achievable for them.

Whether the challenge is to complete 5K, reduce screen time, lose weight or give up smoking, it doesn’t necessarily have to be something big, just a healthy lifestyle change which could make a real difference.

If you haven’t signed up to the Flourish Challenge already, please contact [email protected]. In return, you will receive an introductory pack and throughout the year will pick up rewards as you complete your monthly challenges.

This month we have teamed up with the Great Run Company to give staff the opportunity to take part in the Great North Run 2021 (and its delayed 40th anniversary celebrations) and generate valuable support our charity.

Whether you are signing up for a charity place or looking to complete the 13.1 miles at home, the aim is to set yourself a challenge that works for you and your goals. You could aim for 13.1 miles in 3 hours, over 3 days (or more), or how about 1 mile a day for 13 days?

Motivate others along the way by sharing your personal journey with us using #FlourishFit and tagging @newcastle_NHS and @NewcastleHosps on social media to ensure we can be there to cheer you along.

To sign up to the Great North Run with one of our charity places we ask for a £50 registration fee and that you pledge to raise £250 for our Newcastle Hospitals Charity. To sign up visit –https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/great-north-run-for-newcastle-hospitals-charity-registration-133838325033

A special delivery for 2021

Haya Ahmer – our second New Year baby

While many people were happy to see the end of 2020, some had as much reason to celebrate the New Year as we welcomed Newcastle Hospitals’ first babies of 2021.

Among our first arrivals was Haya Ahmer – the second baby born at the RVI – who entered the world at 6.53am, weighing 6lb 14oz. She was also an early surprise for proud parents, Hareem Esmail and Ahmer Nadeem, as she wasn’t due until 11 January. Hareem is also a member of staff who works in the eye clinic at the RVI. On behalf of everyone at the Trust, our best wishes and congratulations.