Innovation and continuous improvement

I am very conscious of how busy staff and our leadership teams are right now. Thank you for all you are doing. It’s a challenging time but we also have many opportunities as we begin working to deliver a new long term plan for the NHS and at the same time lay out our own strategic plan for the next five years here at Newcastle Hospitals.

Delivering great care today, whilst co-designing our approach for our future, is essential if we are to support a sustainable health and care system – but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. The Executive Team and I are looking for ways to support this and the work we are doing with McKinsey is a good example of that.

This expert team will support us and bring international knowledge and experience. They are working alongside our service improvement team and transformation and financial improvement team to help us produce a programme for the next few years. We need to be ‘clinically excellent and operationally efficient’ so that we spend the precious resources we have in the areas that make the most difference to patients.

Reducing costs and eliminating waste is part and parcel of  our leadership task and it is much better to look ahead and think medium and longer term, instead of ‘salami slicing’ budgets. Clearly we are committed to avoiding anything which impacts adversely on the quality of care.

Delivering sustainable and excellent health care also requires us to continuously look for opportunities to work differently and make small but important improvements. There are lots of examples across our services where teams are designing ways of working, which bring about better experience and outcomes for staff, as well as for patients and their families. I saw this recently in our community services where health and social care teams have changed their way of working to ensure that local people are getting the right care quickly, from the most appropriate member of the team.

As well as working with external partners, we need to value the expertise we already have right here. The Executive Team has recently agreed to support the development of our Quality Faculty, at the heart of which is the principle of continuous quality improvement. We have adopted the Institute of Healthcare Improvement (IHI) model which has been used to good effect in this Trust and much more widely. It’s great that we already have a significant number of staff who are trained in implementing change through this method. We are planning ways to increase our training capability in quality improvement and to support people to undertake QI innovations throughout the Trust.

There are lots of exciting developments planned for this year and to assist teams we will soon produce a “plan on a page” outlining our ambition for 2019/20. This won’t cover everything that we are doing, but I hope it will support conversations in your teams so that everyone can see how their efforts contribute.

Appointment Booking Centre

Regent Point

Outpatients is a key service area where we can make positive changes, so I’m delighted that a centralised Appointment, Booking and Call handling centre will be opened this summer at Regent Point, housing a dedicated booking team who’ll be on hand to respond to the needs of thousands of patients who are referred
to us.

Currently, our outpatient teams are based in different locations and directorates across hospital sites, which has led to variations in the service provided to patients. Under this new initiative, which covers the majority of clinical specialties, patients will receive the same level of service, irrespective of which clinical area they are referred to for treatment. It also benefits our staff as they’ll be working together as one team for the first time, providing them with more support and opportunities to gain expertise in new areas. Another group of staff will remain on our hospital sites to undertake reception and clinical preparation roles.

We’re beginning a period of consultation with all of our staff members potentially affected by these changes where they can ask questions, find out more about the service and provide feedback and I’ll ensure I keep staff updated about developments in future briefings.


Sir Robert Francis, Chair of Healthwatch England visited the trust on 7 February. He was introduced to the Great North Children’s Hospital and met the team on Ward 3. Sir Robert has a very clear focus on the experiences of patients and their families and was able to hear about the way that families are supported when they need to spend long periods in and near the hospital. He also heard about the exciting developments to provide CAR-T therapy to children and young people.

Professor Joseph Coughlin was another important guest last week. Joe is the founder and Director of the AgeLab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of ‘The Longevity Economy’. He is working closely with partners in the Newcastle to help further strengthen our reputation as a key city for healthy ageing. It was a great opportunity to introduce Joe to the world class research and innovation being carried out locally, particularly through the Biomedical Research Centres’ focus on Ageing. The opportunity to create some of the best services in the world for older people is well within our grasp and it’s great to be part of this innovation.

Next week, I am looking forward to welcoming Roy Lilley to the Trust. As founder of the The Academy of Fabulous NHS Stuff, Roy is always on the lookout for new ideas and is keen to give a platform to the great work in the NHS every day.

I am so proud of our services, and I would encourage you to come along to our services showcase (from 10.30am – 11.30am in the Education Centre, RVI) and find out about some of the great innovations from around the Trust. Roy’s presentation will take place at 11.30am in the RVI Education Centre Lecture Theatre and everyone is welcome.

In the News

This week, we revealed exciting plans to further strengthen Newcastle’s international status as a leader in healthcare for older people through the redevelopment of the former General Hospital (CAV) site.

Earlier this week I wrote to all staff to share our vision, with the University and City Council, for the redevelopment of the iconic former general hospital site, now the Campus for Ageing and Vitality. It is fabulous to be part of this exciting development which will support the health, wealth and wellbeing of the city. We have seen some very positive press coverage and excellent feedback from local people which you can see in the press cuttings link.

I know that a number of staff are worried about car parking arrangements in the future after the site is redeveloped, and I have listened carefully to these concerns. I can assure you that this is very much under consideration. The Trust has secured planning permission for a staff multi story car park at the RVI with 900 spaces and building will begin in the spring and will take approximately 2 years.
However this in itself will not solve the problem and we need to support staff in other, more sustainable ways as well. I will continue to provide updates on this important subject.

The Estates team will be holding a drop-in information session about changes to the CAV site on Wednesday 27 February in Seminar Room 2, Cragside Education Centre between 10am and 2pm. Estates colleagues will be there to talk about the plans and to ask for your feedback. Refreshments will be provided and I would encourage staff to call in if you can.


Congratulations to everyone who completed our

#LetsMove challenge in January clocking up an amazing 67,711 miles as part of the challenge. That’s more than twice around the world and importantly, it’s further than we might have walked in January without the challenge. Congratulations to ‘Ultra Chaplain’ who logged the most solo steps and to ‘Hels belles and the lads’ who had the highest steps per team member.

It’s been great to see teams getting into the spirit of #LetsTalk with tea, cake and conversations. You can see more of the wonderful pictures, ideas and inspiration on the flourish website and on Instagram where we are @NewcastleHosps. This week we reached over 1000 followers on Instagram