Looking to the future with confidence and enthusiasm

It was wonderful to see the country coming together last weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee and it was a particular pleasure that two members of our team, Professor Ruth Plummer and Diane Buggy, were recognised in the Platinum Birthday honours for the huge contribution they have made to the country.

Professor Ruth Plummer, honorary consultant medical oncologist received an MBE for services to medicine and her tireless work in helping to establish and lead the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Trial Research Centre. In the 14 years since it was set up, her support for the centre and the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation has been unwavering. Lady Elsie, wife of the late Sir Bobby Robson paid a sincere and heartfelt tribute to Ruth saying: “Ruth is the heartbeat of our Foundation. She brings immense expertise and a measured approach to all our decision making.

“Her commitment is incredible, and, with her help, we have gone on to raise over £16m to find more effective ways to detect and treat cancer. Ruth is loved and respected by everyone she works with and by everyone she comes into contact with through our charity. She is a woman of tremendous empathy, courage and professionalism. My husband admired Ruth greatly, as do I. As does everyone connected with the Sir Bobby Robson Foundation.”

Diane Buggy, who has been a community midwife in the West End of Newcastle since 2014, received an MBE for services to midwifery and to the community in the Northeast of England.

Aware of the inequalities some woman in the area faced, particularly women who are refugees and asylum seekers, Diane saw the gaps that ‘early help’ plans and routine intervention didn’t reach. Many of those she cared for had nothing and had no access to any resources so, she began collecting basic equipment that a new mother might need for herself and her baby. She spent a lot of her own time increasing the network of mothers who could donate supplies and – in response to increasing demands she created ‘Mothers to Mothers’. Last year she received the Chief Midwifery Officer’s Gold Award for her work.

Diane said: “I am completely and utterly shocked. There are so many others out there who would deserve an MBE so it’s really humbling to have been recognised. I am so proud to be a midwife in Newcastle and to be part of such an amazing team and I’m extremely proud of Mothers to Mothers.

“This is not just for me. It is for all of the amazing families who support Mothers to Mothers with their donations. They’re not just donating ‘things’ these are items that have been used by their own children and must hold such special memories. This is for all of the wonderful women we support; they are all so grateful for the donations, they really feel loved – I really can’t thank everyone enough.”

I know that everyone will join me in wishing Diane and Ruth our most heartfelt congratulations and will share the pride that I feel in their achievements.

Alongside this celebration, I was very moved to see so many people joining together to honour Her Majesty’s remarkable lifetime of public service. Across the trust many teams celebrated the occasion, and this was appreciated by our patients and their families.

In her personal thank you message to the country, that was published on Wednesday evening, Her Majesty said, ‘I continue to be inspired by the goodwill shown to me, and hope that the coming days will provide an opportunity to reflect on all that has been achieved during the last 70 years, as we look to the future with confidence and enthusiasm.’

This message resonated with me, as I’m conscious that we have all spent time reflecting on our experiences, particularly over the past 30 months. After such a major disruption to society, and to the NHS due to the pandemic, it will inevitably take us some time to reset and rebalance but looking forward with confidence and enthusiasm feels right.

I expect this will be a year of transition – when we may need to refocus quickly and make some fundamental shifts in the way we work so that we can respond effectively to the tasks and challenges we are presented with.

Across the wider health system, I am seeing leaders and politicians realising the scale and scope of the job that needs to be done. I am convinced that the answers, ideas and innovation that we will need to be successful in the future will be found with our teams and leaders here in the Trust and by working in the system close to us.

So, how will we respond to these challenges?

My experience tells me that at times like these, we should focus on the fundamentals. Refocussing on making sure that we create the right culture, good leadership, a clear vision and strategy and that we support our staff to deliver the best possible care and treatment.

I’ve been challenging myself recently to think about how I can support the organisation to be the best that in can be, and one that provides the best care possible to our patients – that is the bottom line for me and has always been what motivates me and gives me energy. And my job at the moment is to create the climate where we can all focus on that aim.

Over the last 30 months, many of our operating procedures have changed. The overall environment during this time changed too, helpfully giving us the headroom to manage the crisis. We can’t go back to the way things were ‘before’ because new standards and parameters have been set and the expectations on us are different. I’m mindful too, that circumstances have changed for many members of the team as the cost of living crisis has developed and later in my blog you will see some information on free, dedicated support that we have put in place.

It’s important that we refresh the way we operate to make sure that every part of our complex organisation is working well. Together, we have been working on the things that we believe will help us to achieve our goals and deliver the best care for patients, and I’m going to refer to these as the ‘fundamentals’ of a well led, and well-run organisation. These include:

  • Leadership development including our most senior 100 leaders, and a focus on leadership behaviours throughout the organisation.
  • Focussing on recruitment, retention and staffing levels.
  • Paying attention to equality and diversity and positively driving up the experience of staff.
  • Continuing our quality improvement programme with the Institute of Health Improvement (IHI) including direct engagement with 25 teams, 60 coaches and 30 senior sponsors as well as several hundred people attending learning and sharing events.
  • Developing a new Quality and Patient Safety Strategy.
  • A governance refresh looking at how we measure against the CQC well-led criteria.

Yesterday I visited the critical care team (ward 37) at our Freeman Hospital and heard from them about the fundamentals of care that they are paying attention to.  I will share more about this visit in my next blog.

It was great to meet a team who were positively focussed and above all hopeful, despite the pressures that they have faced. Their approach was inspirational.

Last week I also visited our Day Treatment Centre, which is under construction at the Freeman Hospital and will open in late summer. This is a great example of how we are thinking differently about the future. Creating a state-of-the-art surgical hub to provide the best care and experience for our patients, as well as a fresh and inspiring work environment.

It’s important to say that I’m not proposing for a minute that we overlook the very real challenges and difficulties we face. Neither am I suggesting that focussing on the basics and fundamentals is easy – far from it. Having a laser like focus on doing the best for patients is a 24/7 effort.

But we are a team which has always been motivated by striving to be the best, and by doing our best. I hope that we can all find the motivation and the energy to support each other and our patients and to be proud of what we achieve.

I want to make sure that we are also talking to and hearing from staff from all different parts of the trust about the future of the organisation, so we’re thinking about the best way to do this, which will build on the good practice we already have and our ‘What matters to you’ programme.

This week we’ve made the symbolic step of removing our masks in most areas, so it seems somehow appropriate that we’re turning towards our future developments. Across our organisation we are building on a really strong platform of high performance and compassionate care, and every day I hear and see glimpses of brilliance. Thank you for the hard work that you contribute every day. It is appreciated.

QI Case Study

Our latest QI case study is from the Rheumatology Education Team who have used an improvement approach to encourage, support and empower patients to effectively self-manage early arthritis. Read more about the changes they have made here.

Management restructure town halls

As we trailed earlier this year, we are looking forwards to how we further improve the quality of care we deliver in a changing world.

Our existing clinical directorate structures have helped us to become a very successful organisation delivering high quality healthcare for our patients. We know from some staff that current structures can be difficult to navigate and that at times this gets in the way of improvements we would want to make.

We are keen to consult staff as widely as possible across the organisation to hear ideas about where and how we can improve the organisational structure to deliver improved quality, safety and staff experience.

Details of these sessions are below and they will commence week beginning 13 June. Details on how to join via Teams can be found on the intranet.

  • 13 June: 4:30-5:30pm – MS Teams
  • 14 June: 2-3pm – MS Teams
  • 16 June: 8-9am – MS Teams
  • 20 June: 5:30-6:30pm – IOT Lecture Theatre
  • 23 June: 9-10am – IOT Lecture Theatre
  • 27 June: 11am-12pm – MS Teams
  • 28 June: 3-4pm – CRB Lecture Theatre, RVI
  • 1 July: 1:30-2:30pm – CRB Lecture Theatre, RVI

Quick access to free, impartial advice

All staff at Newcastle Hospitals have direct access to confidential support from Citizens Advice Gateshead.  The service is open to every member of staff and volunteer – whether you have money worries, need help completing benefits forms or need advice on how to access support.  You can get more info here.

Here’s what some people have said about it:

“Really helpful and quick service. I felt listened to and the information was easy to understand.”

“I’m not worrying about my debts as much. (The adviser) helped me make a plan to get out of debt and now I know what I need to do.”

“Thanks so much for your help, I was really worrying about everything before I spoke to you.”

You can also speak with Citizens Advice Gateshead at the following drop-in sessions next week, between 12 and 1pm:

  • 16 June: Regent Point staff restaurant
  • 17 June: Freeman staff restaurant (Chattery)

Alternatively, from 13 June you can speak with a Citizens Advice advisor confidentially at one their regular dop in sessions:

  • Every Tuesday at the RVI, 11am to 2pm (Level 5 Chaplaincy office, Leazes Wing near the lifts and wards 48,47,46 and 45)
  • Every Thursday at the Freeman, 11am to 2pm (Chaplaincy Staff support room “Soul space” Level 2 Chapel Corridor, FH main block)

Whilst this support can be accessed by our Chaplaincy Team as part of their support to staff, Citizens Advice Gateshead is an independent charity and all information you provide will be in confidence.

You can also contact Citizens Advice Gateshead directly on:

[email protected] or 0191 814 4215.

Providing staff with direct access to the Citizens Advice Gateshead service forms part of the Chaplaincy’s Helping Hands support offer to staff in financial crisis, and is supported by Newcastle Hospitals Charity:

For more information about Helping Hands, Chaplaincy can be reached 24/7 every day of the year on either 48129 (8.30am – 4.30pm), or via switchboard at all other times.

70k your way

It’s been great to see so many of you taking part in our 70k your way challenge to mark Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. There is still time to take part and move more this June, you can run, walk, cycle, swim – simply cover at least 70 kilometres, any way you choose throughout June 2022.

The challenge is a light-hearted opportunity for us all to move a bit more. We have even developed a royal map that covers 70k around London landmarks – so you can monitor your progress and have some fun tracking yourself along the way. Find out more how to get involved here.

What Matters to You Day 2022

Yesterday was What Matters to You Day and I’d like to thank all of our colleagues who have taken part in What Matters to You (WMTY) conversations over the last year. Our WMTY programme aims to empower and support teams to have more meaningful conversations, that inspire change and all of the feedback collected is already helping to shape our organisation now and in the future. Here is a summary of the work we have done over the last year and I look forward to seeing this develop further over the coming months.

If you are a manager who would like to become part of What Matters to You and deliver a programme of work linked to staff experience, you can attend one of the new sessions in July. The training, developed by IHI, Newcastle Improvement, the Staff Engagement and Experience team and Education & Workforce Development, is delivered virtually over 1-2 hours:

  • Session 1 – Intro, expectations & conversation facilitation – 14 July 12pm to 1:30pm
  • Session 2 – Analysing feedback – 21 July 12pm to 1:30pm
  • Session 3 – Model for Improvement – 28 July 12pm to 1:30pm
  • 2x 1hr Coaching sessions – As and when required

Newcastle Health Innovation Partners

I am delighted to announce that Hannah Powell (Directorate Manager for Clinical Research) has been appointed as the new Chief Operating Officer for Newcastle Health Innovation Partners.

Newcastle Health Innovation Partners (NHIP) is our Academic Health Science Centre serving the North East and North Cumbria region. It unites five local partners: Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University and Newcastle Hospitals.

The Partners work collaboratively to translate world-class research and innovation into real world benefit, improving the population’s health and generating economic growth for the region.

Prior to her time at Newcastle Hospitals, Hannah held senior leadership roles in several NHS organisations in the North East region. She also brings experience of the charitable sector and local government in the North West.

You can still register for: NHIP ‘In Conversation’ an update on two years of progress. Taking place on Monday 13 June, 11am – 12.15pm book your place here.

Find out more about NHIP on its website or follow them on twitter @NHIPartners.

Awards and achievements

Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours – As I mentioned earlier in my blog we were proud to share the lovely news that two of our staff – honorary consultant medical oncologist, Professor Ruth Plummer, and community midwife, Diane Buggy, both received MBEs for the huge contributions they have made ‘beyond’ already demanding day jobs in the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Birthday Honours List. I’d also like to pay a special mention to John and Joan Bedlington who received an MBE for their crucial role to the foundation of LIVErNORTH – a Newcastle-based Patient Support Group for patients with liver disease supports vital research.

Cavell Star – Senior sister Jen Steedman was presented with a Cavell Star Award in recognition of how she has consistently gone above and beyond for her patients throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Jen, who has provided the Home Haemodialysis Service from Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital for over 12 years, was nominated by colleague Deputy Matron Glenda Bestford.

Horizon Prize – The microbiology team at the Freeman were part of a wider team of scientists, led by Northumbria University, to win The Royal Society of Chemistry’s prestigious Horizon Prize for improving global healthcare through the discovery of novel approaches for identifying bacteria.