It’s the small things

Sir Simon Stevens visits RVI

Last Friday we were visited by Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, to mark the anniversary of our hospitals receiving the first patients in the UK with coronavirus. Sir Simon was keen to meet the team who cared for those patients, and to say thank you to everyone in the NHS for their extraordinary efforts over the past 12 months.

Speaking in our High Consequence Infectious Diseases unit, Sir Simon said: “On behalf of families and patients across the country, we thank staff across the NHS for their extraordinary work in a year like no other. The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest public health emergency in NHS history, but in the past 12 months the NHS has achieved things many would have thought impossible.

“Our brilliant NHS staff have been on the frontline of the intense and relentless battle against

Dame Jackie Daniel and Sir Simon Stevens
Dame Jackie Daniel and Sir Simon Stevens

coronavirus. They are part of this country’s greatest peacetime mobilisation, and we also thank other key workers, particularly in the care sector, the hundreds of thousands of volunteers, tens of thousands of staff who returned, the student nurses and medical students who stepped up and our colleagues in the armed services.”

I was very proud to be able to welcome Sir Simon to the trust at this important moment. He also visited the vaccination centre at the Centre for Life and our Clinical Research Facility so saw many of the different ways that the team in Newcastle has contributed to the national and international fight against this pandemic.

Sir Simon and I spoke about the way that Newcastle has approached the pandemic – ensuring that our values led our response. I told him how proud I am of everyone in the whole team for the kindness that has been shown throughout to our patients and the way in which everyone has supported their colleagues in the face of the huge pressure they have experienced.

We also talked about how exhausted everyone is, and how much of a struggle it has been, both at work and at home, especially during this third wave of the pandemic.

I’ve had so many personal conversations with colleagues about the impact of the pressures that we’re all feeling. I’m conscious that my sleep isn’t great at the moment, and I know others are experiencing more anxiety than usual. Everyone will be experiencing different things which are unique to us.

It’s been a long slog to get us to this point and we’re all acutely aware that a more normal life is still some way off.

What keeps me feeling optimistic are the little things.

Amongst the lovely media coverage we received around the anniversary week was a very special item on BBC news about our team in ward 13 at the Freeman Hospital who took special care of Irene, a patient who has been with us for some time and celebrated her 100th birthday.Irene's100th birthday

As a lover of classical music, Irene had been looking forward to a classical concert to celebrate her centenary, instead Drs Roger Jay and Thom Fairhead brought in their violins to serenade Irene and the nursing team arranged video calls with her family all around the world. She and her family were delighted.

I know that in every part of our organisation there are similar little positive rays of hope and light like this. Although everyday isn’t going to be a good day, there will be something good in everyday which we can seize. Each of us can be the light in someone’s rainbow, and that is so important right now.

Yesterday was time to talk day – the national campaign to challenge the stigma associated with mental health. The theme this year also focussed on the power of small things – particularly small conversations that can offer huge amounts of support and encouragement.

Checking in on colleagues, friends and family is something that I’m prioritising at the moment to help me stay connected.

We will all have different ways of coping and of getting and giving support, and I hope that everyone is taking as much opportunity as you can to do what makes a difference to you.

At our executive team meeting on Wednesday we focussed on one of the most important challenges we are faced with – how to support our staff as we emerge from these dark days.

Recovery needs to be so much more than building back to our previous performance. We need to understand what we can to do to support staff to reset and regain some of the strength and resilience we have lost.

No-one yet has all the answers to how we do that. I am part of a number of national and regional discussions on this but the fact is this isn’t a situation any of us have been in before. We will need to work out with you what you think will best support you so that we can agree priorities together.

I want to say very clearly that we need to invest in supporting the whole team, listen to your experiences and work collectively to develop things that will help. I will share with you more our intended approach – and how you can get involved – over the coming weeks.

For now though, please be proud of your contribution.  I would recommend that everyone take 5 minutes to watch this emotional video created by our communications team that reflects on our experiences.

Our chaplaincy team has also developed this reflective service which you may find helpful.

Our Head of Chaplaincy Katie Watson also gave a moving account on BBC Five Live yesterday morning, sharing her audio diary of a weekend on-call at the Trust. You can hear Katie around 8 minutes after the start of the programme and it’s definitely worth a listen.

Wellbeing resources for staff are available here:

Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) – You can find a full list of mental health first aiders on the Trust intranet site. Please contact Health and Safety on 29147 or 48084 if you have any questions about MHFAs in your area.

The Psychology in Health Care Team – have regular briefings to link you with information that can help support your psychological wellbeing.

Chaplaincy service – Chaplains provide a 24 hour on-call service every day. Please contact them through the Switchboard.

You can find out more information here

If you are struggling and need to speak to someone, please contact the OHS Support line

0191 282 4800 or email [email protected]

Freedom to Speak Up

We have a number of Freedom to Speak Up champions, as well as a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian, if you need to raise concerns about any aspect of patient or staff safety. Further details are available here.

LGBT+ History Month

February is LGBT+ History Month and in the Trust there are a number of sessions available to staff with topics including gender identity, the use of pronouns, supporting mental health and wellbeing, understanding what it is like to ‘come out’ as LGBT+ as well as other resources and information about the rainbow badge initiative.

Further information on our programme of events can be found here.

Awards and recognition

Congratulations to Nehal Hassan, a PHD student at the School of Pharmacy, The Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University who is also affiliated to our cardiothoracic surgery department, for being selected as a finalist for the STEM for Britain 2021.

STEM for Britain is an exhibition of posters by early career research scientists, engineers and mathematicians and Nehal will now showcase her work to the Houses of Parliament in March.

This is a great example of collaborative working between the Trust and the University and special thanks to the IT and microbiology teams who have also been crucial to the success of this project.

National Hip Fracture Database

The annual National Hip Fracture Database 2020 report was recently published and I’m delighted that the RVI has had some really positive results. We are one of nine trauma units showing the quality of patient care was significantly above average across all six of NHFD key performance indicators and are also one of 41 units with excellence in data collection and follow-up. Congratulations to everyone involved.