Leading with people at our heart

Picture of two physiotherapists stood in the corridor of a children's ward.

Headshot of Sir James Mackey with suit and tie on.This week the Chairman announced that Sir James Mackey will be taking up the reins as your new chief executive early in the New Year.

I am delighted that Jim has been appointed as my successor. Having got to know him well over the last six years, I know that he is utterly dedicated to the North East and the health and wellbeing of its people. He is a clear, compassionate leader who will be a huge asset to the trust over the years ahead.

As we make the transition to a new Chief Executive, I’m sure there will be opportunities to reflect on recent years, and review and refresh the approach for the future.

Picture of people sat at tables in a conference room.

Yesterday I was a keynote speaker at our major trust improvement event ‘Leading with People at Our Heart’. This was the second annual event we have held as part of our focussed work with the Institute for Health Improvement (IHI) to embed a culture of continuous quality improvement.


This has been a hugely positive programme of work focussed on improvement for our patients.

In total, more than 1,300 people across the trust have been trained in quality improvement methodologies and the ‘model for improvement’ over the last two years, broken down as follows:

  • Introduction to QI (e-learning) – 408 people have completed the online offer
  • QI Essentials – 296 people have attended QI Essentials Training (with October to December training already well subscribed
  • Improvement Teams Programme – 22 teams (around 120 people) completed cohort 3
  • Improvement Coach Programme – 22 people completed cohort 3 (with cohort 4 starting in November)
  • Enhanced Induction – over 260 people have attended, receiving an introduction to QI session
  • Preceptorship Programme – over 230 attendees receiving nearly 600 hours of learning

This significant investment in skills, knowledge and creating new capability has been generously supported by Newcastle Hospitals Charity. It has fired the empowerment of staff to systematically improve quality in every aspect of their practice.

Around 250 leaders attended this event from across the organisation – representing all our professions from every area of the trust and including staff from all backgrounds and levels of seniority.Picture of Drs Yincent Tse and Maria Clement and research and development finance manager Chris Curry presenting at conference in front of a screen.

It was great to see so many people contributing to the event with their own experiences including Drs Yincent Tse and Maria Clement, and research and development finance manager Chris Curry.

Leading with People at our Heart means putting our Trust values and behaviours into action. It means changing the way we expect managers and leaders to act, so that we see and experience a different kind of leadership which is inclusive.

There was a clear focus on ‘leading with compassion’ with expert contributions from our IHI partners Susan Hannah and Kate Hilton as well as an inspiring and energising presentation from ‘Civility saves lives’ founder Dr Chris Turner.

I opened the day by speaking about our journey to lead with people at our heart and took the opportunity to reflect on the last six years and think about how far we have come; the successes and achievements we have made and also the challenges we continue to face.

Given what we have all experienced over recent years, with the intense demands on every member of the team, it’s easy to forget the reality of people’s experience in our organisation when I first arrived in Newcastle.

Our clinical excellence and expert staff were widely renowned, but I heard a lot from staff and leaders about the closed culture, their fear of speaking out and the very traditional approach to management.

There was little opportunity for staff to celebrate success or feel that they could have a say, and little recognition or celebration of the diversity and passion which is such a strength of this vibrant team.

There was poor engagement with others in the city and partners in the region. In those early days, we worked together to ‘open the windows and let the light in’, highlighting the excellent work that so many teams across the trust were proud of and helping our local population to understand more about our services.

I vividly remember raising the LGBTQ flag above our hospitals in a visible statement that everyone is welcome here and everyone is valued. I remember the emotional reaction of staff to this signal of intent.

We have worked hard to move away from being in ‘fortress Newcastle’ – reaching out to partners and delivering on our commitments to them in a way that was much more open and welcoming than before. Forming ‘Collaborative Newcastle’ was a natural progression of that change of style, and this continues to pay dividends as we tackle health inequalities in our city.

We also undertook a very significant governance review, developed a new strategy and vision, and listened to staff to develop our values. We put in place robust structures to ensure clarity of responsibilities throughout the trust, from ‘Board to ward’ and were clear about the ‘operating framework’ that we all worked within.

We were also very successful in enabling staff to thrive through networks of interest which reflected their passions. The best example being our sustainability champions who worked so hard to influence our decision to declare a climate emergency in 2019, which has been a significant pillar of work and one which I will come back to in my next blog.

In those early days as I took up this role, we began to set the foundations that will enable us to lead with people at our heart. We have all contributed to that development, and we all have a future role to play. To me, that means each of us taking our responsibilities seriously and believing that each one of us can make a difference.

It’s about leaders listening and engaging with their teams to encourage, welcome and facilitate ongoing improvement and innovation. It’s about working together with respect and compassion to be the very best that we can be for our patients and for each other. It is a job that will never be completed and will always need our attention – but one where we can all make an impact.

I left the event yesterday feeling very proud to be your Chief Executive. Throughout my time here I have witnessed first-hand the energy and commitment of leaders right across the organisation. I have also seen the massive contribution all our staff make for the patients we serve each and every day.

Medical Director receives OBE

Andy Welch wearing a grey suit and pink tie, holding OBE medal

Our warmest congratulations go to our Medical Director, Andy Welch, who received his OBE recently from Prince William, Prince of Wales at Windsor Castle. This recognises Andy’s extensive contribution to the NHS and patients – and anyone who knows him will appreciate how dedicated he is to those patients that we serve.

Andy said: ‘This award is a tribute to the many thousands of staff that I’ve worked with over the last 45 years who focus on our patients before themselves every single day.”

Celebrating our AHPS

Throughout the week in the lead-up to Allied Health Professions Day last Saturday (14 October) we’ve been celebrating our AHP workforce, who are vital members of the team, supporting their work colleagues both in hospital settings and out in the community.

This culminated in a special awards ceremony and you can find out more about our winners here.

Endoscopy services – JAG accreditation

Montage of photos of endoscopy staff

Following a recent review our endoscopy services at the Freeman and RVI have once again achieved JAG accreditation.

The accreditation verified that our endoscopy services are meeting rigorous, high-quality standards which are used across the UK (and Republic of Ireland) to support improvement of endoscopy services. By participating in the JAG programme, we are ensuring that our patients received high quality care throughout our endoscopy services, and this was reflected in the report which said: ‘The service aims to put patients at the centre of what they do and this was evident throughout the visit.’

I know that achieving this reaccreditation was a huge undertaking for the entire endoscopy team across all areas from management, administrative and clinical and I want to say thank you to everyone for their hard work and dedication.

You can find out more about the JAG accreditation here.

Learning and Sharing event

Our latest Learning and Sharing events took place on Tuesday with a fascinating presentation on environmental sustainability and QI. Sarah Watson and Suren Kanagasundaram led an inspiring session looking at how we tackle sustainability using a QI approach, using examples from both our community services and the nephrology team.

Suren gave us a powerful reminder of our responsibilities to provide sustainable services on a habitable planet, and that our underpinning responsibility to ‘first do no harm’ applies to the planet as much as to our patients. The session will be available to view on teams shortly under the Newcastle Improvement pages on the Intranet.

Get Winter Strong

Picture of nurse with yellow banner at the bottom with purple text saying: “Get winter strong. Get your flu and COVID-19 vaccinations”

All staff are entitled to a free covid and flu vaccination so that they can be protected, and also protect our vulnerable patients from these serious illnesses. I’m grateful to the team at the Freeman for my jabs earlier this week – a very quick and painless process!

Thank you also to all our vaccinators and peer vaccinators for your hard work. So far more than 5,548 flu and 4,658 COVID-19 vaccinations have been delivered but there are still plenty of opportunities for you to have your vaccines to help you stay well this winter. Look for the latest clinics and appointments on the intranet and in InBrief.

People at our heart / your voice counts

At the start of May, our Chief People Officer, Christine Brereton, shared some work we were beginning to design and develop – a new people programme so that we can take the most impactful and appropriate actions and solutions to address the things that staff have told us matter the most.

This is being led through a newly developed People Programme Board and two new steering groups, all including a diverse range of colleagues.

This work is now underway and I would like to thank everyone who attended the first two focus groups we’ve held. Over the next couple of months there will be many more opportunities to get involved including signing up for further focus groups, looking out for our staff engagement stands and, of course, filling in your staff survey which is live until 24 November.

The whole programme will be about developing how we work together, our relationships and our culture, all of which are critical for retaining staff and providing the best possible patient care. This is why it’s so important to have staff’s input to ensure we do the right things to make sure you feel valued and listened to.

We’ll provide you with regular updates in our operational updates, InBrief and on the Intranet, as well as through team meetings.

And finally…

Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by the terrible events in the Middle East.

The British Red Cross are accepting donations to support those affected by the conflict and anyone who wishes to donate can do so here.

Please reach out to your managers or our chaplains for support. We also have a number of wellbeing resources available to staff which can be found here.