Heading into winter

Picture of a busy hospital corridor with motion blur in the background

Traditionally, October is always a busy month and this year has been no exception. Our emergency department continues to see high numbers of people presenting. In our latest weekly performance dashboard, A&E attendances of all types increased to 4,629.

Bed occupancy is very high, particularly at the RVI, driven by more emergency patients and higher lengths of stay, such that we are currently caring for 50 more patients who have been in hospital over 14 days compared to the average of last year. Close working with the multi-disciplinary team in the Trust and with wider colleagues in social care and primary care is so important to address these issues and that is why we are strengthening the focus of Collaborative Newcastle on this.

Everyone is pulling together to give our patients the best standard of care we possibly can. For example we have started to trial a new process in our same day emergency care (SDEC) service, streaming patients from ED directly into SDEC from a base of trusted assessment, and the team is already looking at expanding the conditions for this patient flow.

In cardiothoracics the teams are seeing how they can maximise capacity and treat as many acute cardiology patients as day cases so that waiting times for patients to be transferred from the RVI and surrounding trusts can be brought down. In surgery teams are looking at how they can strengthen emergency pathways of care so more emergency patients can go direct to services rather than going via A&E. The great work of our clinical and admin teams in ensuring timely discharge letters also helps support safe discharge and minimise the risks of patients needing readmission.

Inevitably, minds are turning to winter and I know that teams are putting huge efforts into our preparations for the pressure that will bring. Work also continues to get both of our winter resilience and complex discharge wards open over the next 4-6 weeks and in strengthening the teams transferring patients and those caring for patients boarded into other specialties. All staff can play their part in protecting patients and colleagues this winter in being vaccinated for flu and Covid.

However, across the NHS it is getting harder to meet the many demands upon us and despite our best efforts, we are struggling to achieve the national standards especially in cancer services and our referral to treatment targets. Always at the forefront of my mind are the patients on our waiting lists who sometimes wait too long for treatment and I know this is a particular focus for the clinical boards and performance teams who are always challenging themselves and looking at ways to deliver the best response.

This is why it is so important that teams have a very close focus on managing and validating waiting lists and seeing patients in clinical priority and chronological order so that every bit of precious staffed NHS capacity is used really well to care for patients.

Thank you to everyone for your collective efforts in supporting care for our patients.

Picture of the front of the Shine report, which is a close up image of a tree with the Freeman Hospital in the background. On the front of the report it has the Sustainable healthcare in Newcastle logo, with the text "Towards net zero - Sustainable healthcare in Newcastle (Shine) Annual report 2022 - 23"

Towards Net Zero

I’ve often spoken about the first steps of the trust’s journey towards Net Zero, recognising this is more of a marathon – than a sprint – and will present many challenges along the way.

At our recent Board meeting the trust’s Shine (Sustainable Health in Newcastle) annual report was considered. Last year’s report was titled the ‘Red Flag Report’, because despite many staff-led improvements, we continued to see our carbon footprint at Newcastle Hospitals increase.

This year the report paints a different picture – and vision. We remain worried about the speed of change but there are reasons to be hopeful.

We have reduced our controllable carbon emissions and are optimistic that last year’s increase, fuelled by our pandemic response, will have been our peak for those emissions.

Looking back over 2022/2023, we heard about some real progress teams are making – our partnership working with suppliers to align their carbon reduction plans ahead of the NHS target, plans to recruit a dedicated Net Zero engineering team in estates to drive the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and the appointment of two Clinical Sustainable Fellows through Newcastle Hospitals Charity.

The report also outlines performance against our long-term goals and sets out some of the potential interventions that we believe could get us to that goal. You can find out more here.

Menopause support at work

Menopause is a natural stage in a woman’s life and part of the ageing process. While it may not affect everyone, the majority of women will, at some point, experience at least one of the 34 symptoms associated with menopause.

As three quarters of our workforce are women, we have set up a new collaboration with MenoHealth – supported by Newcastle Hospitals Charity – offering a ten-week programme of online workshops focusing on a different topic associated with the menopause.

The first one was yesterday, attended by over 60 people, and these will continue to take place weekly on Thursday afternoons from 1.30pm. If you cannot make a session we are recording them so you can watch them at a time convenient to you. Find the full programme and details on the intranet.

Nursing, Midwifery and Allied Health Professionals (NMAHP) Strategy – ‘One Year On’

Just over a year ago our Executive Chief Nurse Maurya Cushlow launched our new NMAHP Strategy laying out our aspirations to develop Newcastle Hospitals as a centre of excellence for nurses, midwives and allied health professional leadership, education, clinical practice and academic research.

We are holding two events next Monday and Tuesday (6 and 7 November) at the Freeman Hospital Education Centre (meeting rooms 3 and 4) and the RVI (piano room) respectively and would encourage as many of our NMAHPs to come along to meet our senior teams and find out what’s on offer.

During the rest of the week, stalls will be available on different sites and further information about all our events is available on the intranet.

Celebrating 10 years of the Healthcare Assistant AcademyThe Healthcare Assistant Academy Team celebrating its 10 years Anniversary with a cake and balloons in the piano room at the RVI.

The Healthcare Assistant Academy team and colleagues celebrated its 10th anniversary of service supporting new healthcare support workers with a special event last week. Many of our fantastic healthcare support workers were invited, with some sharing their career pathways and how rewarding they find their roles.

Everyone present found their testimonials very powerful and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for all they do to ensure our patients receive the very best care. You can read about the event and what some of our colleagues had to say on our website.

Staff survey

As I shared in my last blog, work is now underway to design and develop a new people programme. One way you can get involved is sharing your feedback through the staff survey. Thank you to the 4,755 staff who have already completed the survey – this is your opportunity to have a voice and share your experience of what it is like to work here at Newcastle Hospitals.

This year, to ensure the survey is more accessible to everyone, all staff from estates and facilities will have received a paper copy in the post to their home address. If you haven’t yet completed your survey, you will also have received a reminder letter through the post over the last week. If anyone has queries, or requires further support, you can attend one of our in-person staff survey stands (advertised on the intranet) or contact [email protected]

Awards and achievements

New cancer treatmentPicture of John Sharp with nurse Jane Aston on the cancer unit.

Hundreds of people with an aggressive type of blood cancer, known as diffuse large B-cell lymphoma (DLBCL) are set to benefit from a potentially curative new treatment option on the NHS, with approval of the drug glofitamab this week.

John Sharp was one of the first patients to start his treatment with glofitamab at the Freeman Hospital via a compassionate access scheme, that enables the use of a drug before full approval. You can read more here.

Picture of the aHUS specialist nurses stood on the stage receiving their award at the Nursing Times Awards 2023

Nursing Times Awards

The atypical haemolytic uraemic syndrome (aHUS) clinical nurse specialists, who lead the National aHUS nursing service from the RVI, were named Winners for the Nursing Times ‘Patient Safety Improvement’ Award.

The award recognises their life-changing initiative ‘A Collaborative model of meningococcal vaccination response monitoring for patients receiving complement inhibition’ which seeks to enhance effective monitoring to help prevent potentially life-threatening infections caused by a known side-effect of the lifesaving treatment patients with the rare disease aHUS receive. You can find out more here.

Merit Award

Congratulations also to Jenny Welford who received a Royal College of Occupational Therapists’ Merit Award in recognition of her contribution to her profession and significant achievements in recent months during in her role as advanced occupational therapist at the Northern Centre for Cancer Care in Newcastle.