Leadership for Improvement

Throughout my career, since my very early days of nursing, the quality of care that we are able to
provide for our patients has been at the focus of everything I’ve done.

I’ve seen first-hand the tragic consequences for families and patients when things go wrong, and
those experiences stay with me, and drive me.

The hard work and compassion of everyone here at Newcastle Hospitals is something that we
should never underestimate – it’s what underpins our outstanding performance and care – and it’s
right that the CQC recognised that when they visited us.

But even in outstanding organisations there are things that we can do better. Sadly we know that
there are still patients and families who don’t get the best experience, and who are harmed as a
result of using services, despite everyone’s best efforts. I’m sure we all have elements of our work
where we would like to make a positive change that would make things better.

That’s why our leadership congress on 27 November focused on Quality Improvement. It was a
pleasure to welcome two world experts on improvement to share their insights with us – Susan Hannah, Senior Director at the Institute for Health and Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, NHS Horizons.

Speakers: Susan Hannah, Senior Director for Europe Region and Strategic Partners, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, Emma Lim, Ben Goodman, Nicola Leech and Yincent Tse

Both speakers highlighted the importance of an organisational culture that promotes continuous improvement and the personal impact that each of us can have in effecting positive change.

We talked about making sure that people can find joy in their work, and developing a happy and engaged workforce who feel empowered to have control over the daily improvements they can make. Helen Bevan talked about helping us all to understand that we have the permission and power that we need to make changes and improvements. She focussed on how a shared purpose can support us to move together in the same direction to achieve amazing things.

I was struck by how this resonates with our values in Newcastle which start with ‘we care and are kind’ – values which are so much a part of what we do. However that isn’t enough; Susan told us about the science of improvement methodology, something that requires training, rigour, expertise and discipline.

As an organisation, we are just beginning our journey to embed quality improvement systematically into everything that we do. I’m grateful to Angela O’Brien, Phil Laws and Annette Richardson who are leading an important piece of work to develop an ‘Improvement Faculty’ in the Trust.

This will build on the great work already undertaken in many clinical specialties and corporate departments, and ensure sharing and spreading of training, development and good ideas in making sure that every person who needs our services is able to get the best outcome.

At our leadership congress, we also heard from two ‘home teams’ about improvement projects that
they have led – kidzmedz, teaching children to take tablets ,and also improving surgical safety for people with diabetes.

Stall owners Nichola and Robert Balmer with their Passion 4 Fruits team at the RVI: Keith Cleminson, Andrea Graham, Michele Balmer,

Improvements are also being made in areas away from clinical services that equally make animportant difference. On Monday, our first fruit and veg stall opened at the RVI. It will be open from 8am – 5pm (until 5.30pm from next week) to provide fresh produce to staff and visitors alike and has been very warmly received.

It’s down to the tenacity of Paula Coulson, associate nurse consultant – vulnerable older adults, dementia and nutrition, who has driven this idea through with the nutritional steering group and they are now working on making the same thing happen at the Freeman Hospital.



Then on Monday afternoon our ‘Winter Wonderland’ Christmas lights were lit at the Great North Children’s Hospital creating many smiles from the children who attended. This was the brainchild of Marie Samuels, one of our play specialists on ward 2a.

Marie Samuels, play specialist on ward 2a at the opening of the Winter Wonderland

All of these examples are examples of people who had identified a challenge, recognised that solving it would lead to improvements, and who were brave enough to focus on making a change for the right reasons. Well done to them all.

I know that there are lots of great examples of improvement like these, but I want us to create an organisation where everyone feels able to make positive changes.

That’s part of being a happy, healthy and productive team who are able to flourish.



Speaking of Flourish, our December campaign is #LetsGive and builds on the generosity of staff who donated toiletries and other gifts to the local community last year.

As I mentioned in my last blog, we’re collecting for Newcastle East and West Food Banks as well as the Newcastle Dog and Cat shelter in Benton and I know many of you have already started your own boxes.

Collection day will be next Friday (13 December) and if you would like to offer your support, these are some of the items the teams are looking for:

  • Food Banks: Tinned fruit, vegetables, tomatoes, fish and meat, rice pudding, potatoes, pasta sauces, curry sauce, small jars of coffee, small bottles of diluted juice, uht milk, biscuits. (no fresh food please)They are also looking for toiletries including shampoo, deodorant, shower gel, toilet rolls and sanitary products.
  • Dog and Cat shelter: hot dogs, newspapers, fish oil/coconut oil, tasty treats, grain free wet and dry food, tinned tuna and sardines, stuffable toys and kongs, cat and dog toys, tin/can openers, lickie mats, snuffle mats, stuffed teddys.

You can also download posters of what we’re collecting here

All items need to be dropped off between 8.30am and 10am as we have arranged a collection with courier 1NE which is kindly supporting us throughout the day. Drop-off locations are:

  • Regent Point – next to reception
  • RVI – Peacock Hall reception
  • Freeman – Communications office (Behind main reception area)

Friday 13 December is also Christmas jumper day, so if you’ve got a favourite festive sweater and want to get on board to support Newcastle Hospitals Charity you can make a text donation as follows:

To donate £1, text XMAS to 70201
To donate £3, text XMAS to 70331
To donate £5, text XMAS to 70970
To donate £10, text XMAS to 70191

Alternatively you may want to donate to a charity of your choice – whatever you decide, please share your photos with us.


I’ve loved seeing the Christmas decorations and lights appear around the Trust this week; it’s making me feel very festive. Next week sees the start of our Christmas lunches, and I know how much everyone appreciates and looks forward to this occasion. Our catering teams will serve around 15,000 lunches to staff and patients over the festive season which is a wonderful achievement. I’m looking forward to helping them out next week!

Staff Christmas lunches are paid for by our Trust Charity. We know that many patients give donations to say thank you to staff for the care they have received, and this is one way of making sure that everyone gets a small token of thanks. I hope you all have a lovely lunch!

Christmas is also a time for giving, so if you’re inspired to donate to our charity over the festive period you can do that at any cash desk or by using the text numbers above. We’ve also got a number of festive events in the coming weeks which are being advertised through social media and InBrief.

Dying to Work Charter

On 28 November, I signed an important charter highlighting the Trust’s commitment to help and support any member of staff who becomes terminally ill. The Dying to Work charter provides protection and reassurance at a vulnerable time when the last thing staff should be worrying about is work.

People are at the heart of this organisation, so if a member of our team becomes terminally ill it’s vitally important that we provide the best possible care and support. By signing the charter, we are committing to ensuring no member of staff will have worry about their job or employment situation at such a difficult time.

The Charter was developed by the TUC and you can find more detail at here.

Staff survey and flu

Thank you to all 6,304 members of staff who filled in the NHS staff survey which closed last week. We know how busy everyone is so it’s great to see so many of you sharing your feedback. Your views on what it’s like to work here and where you would like to see change is really important and has a real impact on our future.

Thank you also to 10,797 members of staff (including 8,335 frontline staff), who have already protected themselves against flu. We are starting to see more confirmed cases of flu in our hospitals, which is why it is so important that you make sure you get the vaccine. We had added extra drop-in clinic times which can be found on the intranet, along with a list of peer vaccinators who can deliver the jab.

Sustainability Officer, Amy Johnston, recently shared her experiences of having the jab – despite her needle phobia – after getting the flu in winter 2017. Watch her interview here

Have you seen the NHS App?

It can often be tricky to find the time to do things like booking GP appointments, ordering repeat prescriptions or updating your organ donation preferences. The NHS App has been built by the NHS to help with these tasks and it’s free and it’s secure. 

The app hasn’t yet been promoted to the public – the focus has been on making sure all GP practices are fully connected to it first so that we can all benefit from all the app’s functions.

But now that work’s been done, we as NHS staff are being encouraged to be early adopters of the app. Visit the IOS or Android App store on your phone to download it and let us know what you think!


Lovely to welcome Sam Roberts to the Trust and show her our world class innovations in cancer, cardiology, surgical training and cellular therapies

On Wednesday (4 December) we welcomed Dr Sam Roberts, Chief Executive of the Accelerated Access Collaborative – the umbrella organisation for UK health innovation. Sam was able to visit a number of innovative services in the Trust, both at the Freeman Hospital and RVI – including the Surgical Training centre.

Her focus was on innovation and adoption but she was also hugely impressed with the facilities and infrastructures we have here in Newcastle, the enthusiasm of everyone she met and our absolute commitment to high quality care.

Healthchat – Roy Lilley

Next week, I’ll be chatting with Roy Lilley – a health policy analyst, writer, broadcaster and commentator on the NHS – about my career and life as a CEO.

My HealthChat is at the RVI, CRB Education centre on Tuesday (10 December) from 5pm to 7.30pm and is free to Trust staff. To book your place here click here – it should be an interesting evening!

Disability Awareness Conference

There are still some limited places available for our disability awareness conference which is open to all staff with a real interest in championing equality and learning more. ‘Ability not disability’ is a key theme for the day and the event takes place this Monday (9 December) from 10am to 3.30pm in the IOT Lecture Theatre at the Freeman. To book a place email: [email protected]

Awards and special mentions

Congratulations to the Northern Alliance Advanced Therapies Treatment Centre (NA-ATTC) which was winner of the Bionow Healthcare Project of the Year Award 2019. The award recognises the unprecedented collaboration between industry, NHS and academic partners to enable system readiness for the NHS to adopt innovative Advanced Therapy Medicinal Products.

The life sciences awards, now in their 18th year, celebrate the use of innovative approaches and projects which provide a major step forward in the area of research and the NA-ATTC received the accolade for their bid entitled ‘Delivering Advanced Therapies to NHS Patients at Scale.’ Thank you to our NA-ATTC partners and collaborators who have come together to make this project a reality, and of course to Innovate UK for our ISCF funding.

The Trust was also awarded the Outstanding Achievement in Healthcare award at the Health Business Awards yesterday.

I’d also like to give a special mention to consultant paediatric immunologist at the Great North Children’s Hospital, Dr Stephen Owens, who is currently in Samoa helping with the measles outbreak as the clinical lead for the UK’s Emergency Medical Team. You can follow his work here