Listening carefully

Last week over 150 of us came together to look at the results of our staff survey which was carried out in October and November. Just under half just under half of you took the time to share your feedback through the survey – that’s almost 6,500 different views about what it’s like to work here at Newcastle Hospitals.

There are inevitably different opinions about the survey. Some people have a healthy cynicism and see it (quite literally) as a tick box exercise that doesn’t make an impact. I understand that.

I know that in such a large organisation it’s healthy to have variety of viewpoints. It’s equally important to recognise that feedback comes from many places – appraisal conversations, corridor conversations and meetings. Effective leaders listen carefully; in fact they use all of their senses to pick up the signs and signals that reveal the wellbeing of their teams and the organisation.

But lots of people did take the time to complete the survey and I want to thank everyone who made the effort to do that. We value how anonymity enables you to be candid and honest in your responses, and I will make sure that the opinions and feedback we have received is heard and used to drive further improvements.

I am pleased to say there are a lot of positives in the latest staff survey results. Newcastle Hospitals was ranked as one of the best places in the country to receive treatment with 90% of staff saying they would be happy with the standard of care provided to relatives and friends and 90% of staff agreeing that the care of patients is our organisation’s top priority. These are results that we can rightly be proud of.

We were placed amongst the top ‘combined acute and community trusts’ for staff morale and creating a safe environment around violence, bullying and harassment with scores of 6.4, 9.6 and 8.4 respectively.

We also fare well against the other organisations which act as ‘anchor institutions’ providing highly specialised, tertiary, research and innovation based services – the Shelford Group – a collaboration between ten of the largest teaching and research NHS hospital trusts in England. We are top or joint top in 4 out of 11 themes, including equality, diversity and inclusion, morale and creating a safe environment.





Our ‘combined acute and community trusts’ sector scores against key categories are as follows:

However, there are some significant challenges to work on together from this year’s survey. Whilst our overall rating for equality, diversity and inclusion benchmarks well against other organisations, on looking further into the results, I was very disappointed to see that our BAME staff are reporting a worse experience of working here, indicating that bullying, harassment and discrimination from colleagues and managers has deteriorated. We need to acknowledge this, understand it and take action to correct it. I am committed to making sure that happens as well as addressing the key areas where we have more work to do.

Working here at Newcastle Hospitals is a minute by minute, 365 day a year job. Everyone working here contributes to our success (or failure) and some days are much harder than others. While it is great to see that we have maintained our scores in eight out of the ten themes that were in last year’s survey, we would like to see the improvements having an impact on you and feeling real when they do.

That’s why our annual survey matters – it’s an important barometer that helps us to measure our progress. Over a few short years we can see the direction that we are travelling in together and assess our progress against a range of broad themes. Are we starting to make the changes that people have asked for? What has improved? What do we need to keep doing more of? What’s new that we haven’t seen before? Are we delivering our strategy to support our people? How else can we measure and understand the reality of working here, and agree the changes and developments that we need to prioritise?

These are the questions we must continue to ask ourselves, alongside taking the time to feedback regularly to our colleagues, managers and staff on how we can do this.

The insight you’ve given into how you really feel is invaluable and vital to us becoming a better employer and an even better Trust. Our commitment as a Board and, in turn, managers throughout the Trust, is that we will always work as hard as we can to respond to the messages you give us.

In the last survey, you told me very clearly that you weren’t satisfied with flexible working options and – in response – we started to make and promote changes to policy and practice to enable more flexibility. But of course changing paperwork won’t make the changes that everyone wants to see. Whilst the feedback indicates this is improving, the cultural changes which really drive new ways of working are more complicated and take longer. We also want to make sure that this is a central theme as part of the focus of flourish at the frontline, ensuring that the best possible opportunities are available across the entire organisation.

At last week’s event, the estates and pharmacy teams, in particular, shared their experience of responding positively to previous feedback from surveys and how they had embraced the challenges that they had heard and worked together to make a difference – that’s what our Flourish approach is all about.

Both teams described how they have taken feedback that was hard to hear and actively listened to staff more clearly on a day-to-day basis. Through a variety of staff engagement events, including open forums, managers and staff built trust and were able to think together about changes that would help. We heard about health checks, rest areas, mental health first aid training and managers saying ‘thank you’ – all of which make the Trust a better place to work.

Feedback from the staff survey provides a firm basis from which to set meaningful, considered priorities for action which will guide and influence the policies, practices, decision making and behaviours that we want to see.

However I want us to think less about the annual cycle of receiving survey results and short-term action plans that focus on trying to improve next year’s results. Instead, I want us to reach a much clearer, holistic and more sophisticated understanding of what we need to do to become the best NHS employer that we can be.

This will be a combination of art and science, information and insight and we will need leaders at every level – frontline, middle and Board – to accept collective responsibility to make the most of our collaborative effort.

An example of excellence

Professor Chris Whitty, Martin Wilson, Lucia Pareja-Cebrian and Andy Welch.

I’ve been very proud to see the fantastic response that everyone has contributed to in supporting our patients with coronavirus. I visited the HCID team last week to thank them personally for their hard work. I know that many teams have also supported this remarkable effort and will continue to do so. Thank you all.

On Wednesday, we were honoured to welcome Professor Chris Whitty, the Chief Medical Officer for England and the UK government’s Chief Medical Advisor, to the Trust where he met some of our staff who have been treating patients and discussed the preparations we have in place as a specialist unit capable of dealing with this illness.

Get active

Last year, many of you dipped your running toes in the water by taking part in the Great North 5K and our very own NHS wave.

We have continued to strengthen our partnership with the Great North Run Company, which this year celebrates the 40th anniversary of the world’s biggest half marathon, and are asking staff to take part in – and save the date for – two important events:

The Great North 10K – Sunday 28 June (which takes place on the date the first Great North Run took place in 1981) Great North 5K – Friday 11 September (including the NHS Wave)

So if you want to go one better in 2020 by doing a 10K or even the half marathon itself – or are simply looking for some motivation to get fitter – now is your chance! We really want to build on the success of last year.

You can register your interest at [email protected]t and there is a discounted rate for NHS staff. Entry prices are: £21 for the 10k, £14 for the 5k and you can pay by payroll giving with further details available shortly. You may also want to consider running for Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity which supports all of our services, wards, specialities and departments. If you’re interested please email
[email protected]

The Great North Run Company has also produced a series of training packs, ranging from absolutely beginners to those who can run a little already, which can be downloaded from our Flourish website.

Visit to children’s ED and Asthma

Last week (11 February) I had the pleasure of visiting our Children’s Emergency Department and Asthma services at the Great North Children’s Hospital.

It was great to meet so many members of the team and hear directly from them about the care they provide to local children and families. I also had a lesson at #PillSchool which I can highly recommend for anyone (adult or child) who struggles to take pills. It’s an important life lesson that I’m sure could benefit many of our patients.

Leadership congress

Our next Trust leadership congress takes place on Wednesday 4 March, from 3.30pm at St James Park where we will be joined by Amanda Pritchard, Chief Operating Officer, NHS England and Improvement, who will be giving us her national perspective and insights on the current issues, particularly for us as an ‘Anchor’ institution for the NHS in the North East. We still have some places available for this important strategic event. Please confirm your attendance with [email protected]

LGBT History month – February is LGBT History Month and to mark the start of celebrations, Martin Wilson, Chief Operating Officer and Vicky McFarlane-Reid, Director of Enterprise and Business Development raised the Rainbow flags at the RVI and Freeman Hospital sites. These will be flying throughout February to demonstrate to staff and the public our commitment to inclusivity and equality and sending the message that Newcastle Hospitals is a place where you can be yourself.

NHS Rainbow badges are also available at the next engagement point; outside of the Medicinema over the lunchtime period next Wednesday (26 February).

Jack’s story – This week, CBBC shared the incredibly moving documentary of Jack whose heart transplant journey was captured over a number of months and featured staff at the Freeman Hospital. I’d like to say a huge thank you to Jack and his family for sharing their story and to all of our teams who were involved. Watch the programme here.