Listening to our staff

As the challenges upon every part of the trust – and the wider NHS – remain high, our executive team and leaders are doing everything they can to understand the changing pressures and offer effective support to staff.

Junior doctors’ industrial action

Next week, the BMA will hold a 72-hour walk out of all junior doctors in England on 13, 14 and 15 March, taking place over consecutive days and nights.

During these periods, our first focus will, as ever, be on protecting patients and maintaining as much safe and effective care as possible for them, prioritising those with the most severe illness.

Our Medical Director Andy Welch and his senior medical team have been working through the likely impact this strike will have across Newcastle Hospitals and putting contingency plans in place with our directorate teams and departments.

For an organisation as large and complex as ours, this takes a lot of work and I would personally like to thank everyone who has been involved in co-ordinating rotas and those who are changing their own working arrangements over this period.

As always, maintaining safe patient care is our priority. Unfortunately, we will have to reschedule some planned appointments and procedures to allow emergency care to continue to be available and we are contacting patients directly to let them know.

While this is a national pay dispute between doctors and the government, I recognise how difficult – and stressful – it must be for our junior doctor colleagues to consider taking industrial action. I am mindful of their frustrations and respectful of their right to strike.

Detailed information for all staff is being shared through the operational update and on a dedicated section of our intranet.

NHS staff survey results

The last few years have been exceptionally difficult for everyone working in the NHS, and now, more than ever, it is important to hear what colleagues think about working in our trust – to help improve working lives.

As part of listening to our staff, we are carefully reviewing the NHS Staff Survey 2022 results which have just been released. You can see our results here.

I’d like to say a very big thank you to all 6,664 of our staff who completed this survey, it really helps us in our journey to improve staff experience. These survey results provide more depth to our understanding of the issues affecting staff and we will continue to incorporate these findings into our ‘What Matters to You?’ (WMTY) programme.

During 2022, through previous staff survey results and WMTY conversations across directorates, we heard three high priority areas where you wanted to see change.

  • Greater autonomy and control – particularly more flexibility and more control over workload. To work smarter, not harder.
  • More participative management – to feel more involved, included, listened to and engaged in decisions that affect you.
  • Better physical and psychological safety – to feel physically and emotionally safe and supported, with mental health being a priority.

These key areas have been our focus in supporting the experience of our staff over the last year and indications from the survey results are showing the start of green shoots in these areas; however, there is still more to do.

Some of the green shoots we are starting to see relate to the work we have been doing to increase involvement in decision-making, opportunities for flexible working and overall satisfaction. Between 2022 and 2023, we have seen a 3% increase in satisfaction with flexible working opportunities (question 4d) and a 3% increase in those who agree that they are able to make improvement happen in their area of work (question 3f). These are initial improvements which we hope to build on over the coming years.

However, the national results show that across the whole NHS, there has been a decline in staff looking forward to going to work, recommending their organisation as a place to work or to receive care from.

Our results in these areas have dipped in line with that national trend, which is not surprising given the significant pressures and challenges facing staff in our organisation are similar to those faced in the wider NHS.

It is testament to you all, given the importance we place on quality of care, that our results compared to other organisations in our sector are still high:

  • 83% of staff would recommend the care we provide to family and friends compared to 62% sector average.
  • 83% of staff feel the care of patients is the trust’s top priority compared to 74% sector average.

We’re now focusing on understanding the 2022 results further, including how they differ between staff groups and directorates, to help inform our next steps in supporting staff. This understanding will not only give us refreshed priorities for action, but will also form a key part of developing our new people strategy which I’ll update you all on over the coming months.

Care for me, with me – our response to focused CQC report

As you know, the Care Quality Commission carried out an unannounced focused inspection on 30 November and 1 December which looked specifically at the quality and safety of care we provided to patients with a mental health need, a learning disability or autism. They also looked at the trust’s adherence to the Mental Health Act and Mental Capacity Act.

In their report they highlighted that they observed kind, caring and dedicated staff, but they also identified important areas where we needed to take action. These areas included assessing and managing risks, adherence to the Mental Capacity Act / Mental Health Act, record-keeping in relation to capacity and reasonable adjustments for people with a learning disability.

We are always disappointed when we fall short of the high standards that are expected, and we’ve responded quickly to put things right.

Liz Harris (our former Deputy Chief Nurse) and Fiona Kilburn (Associate Nurse Director from Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust) have joined us to support an urgent review and develop an action plan to address the immediate issues.

The action plan is comprehensive, with five workstreams incorporating short, medium and longer term aims to ensure that we do everything we can to provide the best care for everyone that needs us.

We’ve called this important work ‘Care for me, with me’ as it focuses on the quality and safety of care for patients with mental health needs, a learning disability and/or autism and our shared responsibility to include patients as equal partners in their care.

To enable us to do this we need to ensure that all of us always recognise and acknowledge the importance of a holistic approach in planning and delivering care and we want everyone to be confident in the role they play in supporting patients, as well as their families.

It’s particularly important because we know that if you have a learning disability, mental health need or autism, you have a much higher chance of experiencing poor physical health and poor outcomes from treatment.

If we can make our services welcoming and safe for those with more complex needs, we will, inevitably, drive-up standards for everyone, so I hope you will understand and share my view of how important this is.

As we make progress over the next few weeks, we will share more information in the trust’s operational updates about how you can get involved but it is expected this work will transition into our usual business, building on our excellent standards of care by providing a framework that ensures our systems, processes and documentation reflect the care that we provide.

Nursing and Midwifery Staffing Update – Spring 2023

Our nursing and midwifery workforce update includes news about our latest plans for international recruitment, the safer nursing care tool, and Continuing Professional Development updates as well as more. The latest edition can be found here.

International Women’s Day

Earlier this week (8 March) we marked International Women’s Day – an opportunity for us to celebrate the achievements of women, raise awareness about discrimination and take action to drive gender parity.

This year’s theme is #EmbraceEquity and the campaign aims to encourage us to talk about why equal opportunities aren’t enough. It’s important that we recognise that we all have a role to play in forging a more gender-balanced world.

We have many women working in a variety of roles across Newcastle Hospitals and they each make such a positive difference to our patients and the wider NHS.

I would like to encourage you all to give thanks to those women who have made and impact and inspire you in the workplace either in person or using Hive.

Awards, achievements and other news

Dr Susan Bissett

Dental trial – Newcastle Dental Clinical Research Facility has teamed up with researchers at Edinburgh Napier University to conduct a trial that could identify people at increased risk of strokes.

Dentists and dental students at Newcastle Dental Hospital will soon be monitoring their patients to see if they have an often-undiagnosed heart condition – as well as tending to their teeth.

Researchers suspect there is a link between gum disease and a heart condition called atrial fibrillation (AF) that puts people at increased risk of stroke so will conduct a study of 1,000 patients over 65 years who attend Newcastle Dental Hospital. You can read more information here.

British Journal of Nursing – The trust has been recognised and shortlisted for three awards:

  • Continence Nurse of the Year – The Newcastle Specialist Continence Service has been named as a Finalist for two impressive harm free care initiatives – the RISSE Project and Bladder and Bowel Assessment Project.
  • Infection Control Nurse of the Year – Specialist Infection Prevention and Control Nurses Amy Griffiths and Pasqua Fitzgibbon have been shortlisted for their multi-faceted, mobile education approaches across busy clinical areas.

The ceremony is on Friday 24 March – good luck to all of our finalists!

Roy Calne Award – Dr Emily Thompson, NIHR Clinical Lecturer in Transplant Surgery was presented with the Roy Calne Award at the recent British Transplantation Society’s annual Congress. This Award recognises “a most outstanding contribution published in a peer review journal, as a single paper, in the broad field of transplantation” by a member aged under 40 years.

Royal College of Occupational Therapists Merit Award – Specialist Occupational Therapist Jenny Welford was nominated by her peers at the RCOT and received her Merit Award for her innovative practice and direct positive impact on service users, outstanding leadership skills and research and influence across the UK.