Our inspirational team

This month I’ve met and heard about some wonderful role models from our fantastic nursing and healthcare assistant team, and I wanted to share their work with you through my blog.

Working in our communities

Newcastle is a city of diverse, different communities and I’m so proud of the work our community teams do every day to provide care in every neighbourhood. Their work, and our services outside of hospitals, are crucial for the future sustainability of our health and care system.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the real privilege to be able to get out and about and spend time with some of our inspirational clinicians in the community and learn more about the care they provide.

At Molineux Street in Byker, I visited the Urgent Treatment Centre and saw first-hand how that team are offering accessible healthcare to the local community, avoiding the need for a primary care or A&E visit.

With permission from patients, I was able to join a consultation with Nurse Practitioner, Mandy Brewis, during one of her clinics. I heard from a local family about how much they valued being able to quickly see a nurse practitioner who was skilled to assess and treat a child’s illness.

I also had a chance to discuss the way our community teams are working to provide an urgent two-hour response to residents in their own homes through services like our Community Response and Rehabilitation Team (CRRT). The CRRT is a multidisciplinary team made up of a variety of health and social care professionals including physiotherapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists and support workers. I enjoyed hearing about how they provide treatment, rehabilitation and support to help people remain independent in their own home for as long as possible.

Throughout this visit it was great to see the extended roles that community nurses have embraced. Many of the pathways I heard about are fully nurse-led and include a mix of both traditional and extended, innovative roles. I was able to talk to some members of the team about their passion for working in the community, the relationships they can quickly form with patients and families and the pride at being able to see the impact they can make. I was also struck by the career routes that people had taken to progress – often working both within the hospitals and in our communities at various points in their career, at each step bringing new skills into their new teams.

Professor Sir John Burn and I were also pleased to have a joint visit to the Connie Lewcock centre in Leamington along with leaders from Newcastle Council.

The Connie Lewcock centre is a fabulous example of how we are working together, under the banner of Collaborative Newcastle, to provide integrated services around the needs of residents. In this council-run centre, residents needing rehabilitation receive care from council staff working alongside therapy staff that we employ.

In my role I spend a lot of time working to create joint partnerships and governance arrangements across our system – to create the right environment for partnership working to happen. Visits like these are so worthwhile because I can see the products of those efforts – great care that isn’t constrained by organisational boundaries. I was very inspired by the staff that I met and by their enthusiasm for their roles and for their patients.

Improving quality

At our Board of Directors meeting this week, our digital people story was from Alpha Toledo, a specialist nurse who works within our Community Response and Rehabilitation Team.

Nurse Specialist Toledo joined the team in April 2020 and although she recognised that they were providing a high-quality holistic assessment, she felt that more could be done to help keep patients safe at home, in particular in preventing patients falling.

She noticed that not all patients were being offered both lying and standing blood pressure and began to carry out a quality improvement project in this area, testing her hypothesis, providing training and education and ultimately ensuring that this became a standard assessment which had a significant impact on care. I’d recommend you take a few minutes to watch Alpha’s video if you would like to know more and see how a simple observation can lead to a significant change.

Supporting our international recruits

Maintaining our nursing workforce is always one of the most critical factors to maintain the standards of care we are able to provide and due to the nursing workforce challenges in the UK, international recruitment continues to be an important part of our strategy.

I cannot imagine the courage of our international recruits to leave their homes and families to come and live and work on the other side of the world in Newcastle. It’s so important that we give them the best possible welcome to the North East and a positive experience both inside and outside of work.

Since 2015, we’ve deployed 308 internationally recruited nurses and two midwives and 127 of them are nurses and midwives that have been deployed since June 2022. It is our ambition to reach 305 nurses and midwives over the rest of this year and into early 2023.

I want to pay credit to our international recruitment team, who are working closely with colleagues in

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HR recruitment, finance and others across the Trust, to help deliver the best experience for our recruits.

There are many examples of how the team support a positive pastoral experience for our international recruits – from their first contact with us, to full integration into the clinical teams. This includes examples such as:

  • Ensuring essentials like bedding, cutlery and fresh provisions are ready for them on arrival.
  • Providing UK sim cards for phones and appointments to set up UK bank accounts.Providing a bespoke induction with support from chaplaincy team, our staff networks, previous recruits, local police, and other members of the community to support them personally as well as professionally.
  • Delivering a high quality OSCE preparation programme designed and delivered by the team.
  • Liaising with test centres, when the nurse or midwife is ready to take their OSCE Test of Competence (ToC), and accompanying all registrants to their test.
  • Extending pastoral support beyond the OSCE ToC by regularly providing advice and guidance to wards and departments to ensure nurses in practice are fully supported.

It’s a credit to the whole team that Audrey Tapang, the Senior Nurse for international recruitment, was earlier this week awarded the International Nurse of the Year in the Nursing Times Workforce Awards. This is testament to the teams’ hard work and dedication.

Celebrating our healthcare and maternity support workers

This week has been a series of celebrations, shining a bright light on our 1,500 plus healthcare and maternity support workers and thanking them for all that they do. Each of them is a fundamental member of the team, and they work alongside their colleagues to support the delivery of high-quality care for patients and their loved ones, working in both hospital and community settings with newborns, children and adults.

Senior nursing colleagues met some of our support workers as they arrived at the Freeman and the RVI and there were visits on wards and in the community sharing tokens of thanks.

We couldn’t get round everybody in such a large organisation as ours but we saw many messages of thanks and support posted on social media with many more being shared in clinics and on wards. One thing is very clear – we simply couldn’t do our job without our healthcare and maternity support workers and I’m sure you’ll join me as I send a resounding ‘Thank You’ to each and every one working for Newcastle Hospitals.

The Chief Nursing Officer and Chief Midwifery Officer for England are currently seeking nominations for their new healthcare and maternity support worker awards to reward significant and outstanding contributions whilst demonstrating NHS values everyday. If you have a colleague who you would like to nominate for an award you can find out more here.

HSJ Awards

On Thursday 17 November, we were awarded a prestigious HSJ Award in the category ‘Towards Net Zero’. The judges said: “Newcastle Hospitals has taken a strategic leadership position to tackle the impact it has on climate breakdown, not just relating to the threat that the climate crisis presents to the planet but also to health, wealth and wellbeing locally.

“With the NHS representing approximately 5 per cent of the UK’s total carbon footprint – around 27 million tonnes of carbon each year – we have to acknowledge that we are a significant part of the problem. The organisation displayed a mature proposition and showcased that it is being led from the top. It was a standout application with clear evidence across the spread of the organisation and ISC footprint.”

This is in recognition of the work that so many green champions have contributed to our efforts to tackle the climate emergency.

On a separate note, Associate Director for Sustainability, James Dixon, recently spoke to the New Statesman about why we signed up to the ICS Clean Air Framework which you can read here.

Also, The Great North Children’s Hospital was part of The Children’s Hospital Alliance who were awarded the Performance Recovery Award in recognition of the work of the Paediatric Accelerator.

NHS Staff Survey closes today

The NHS Staff Survey closes at midnight tonight (25 November) – so if you haven’t done so already, I’d really urge you to take some time today to complete yours.

We want to hear what you have to say, because by telling us the issues that matter, it will help us to make meaningful changes within your workplace. The survey takes just 15 minutes, is completely anonymous and you can even win a £500 voucher.

Your unique survey link is in your NHS mail inbox – if you cannot locate your staff survey invite emails, please type [email protected] into the outlook search function.

You can also complete the survey over the phone with our independent survey provider, who will talk through the questions with you. Their number is 0800 783 1775. They will ask security questions such as your payroll number, so we recommend having this information available.

Please don’t forget to have your say and complete your staff survey today. If you have any queries, please email [email protected]

Learning and Sharing Event

Our monthly Learning and Sharing events by Newcastle Improvement are a fantastic way of hearing about new improvement ideas. Even the smallest changes can have a big impact on staff and patients, and it’s important that we all learn from each other. Here is a link to the latest event, where you can learn about how our pelvic health physiotherapy team is reducing the referral to treatment time. Find out more here.

If you would like to share your improvements as part of our series of Learning and Sharing events, please email: [email protected]

Our staff networks are changing….

We believe in empowering our staff to have a voice, to enhance staff experience and enable colleagues to bring their whole selves to work. Our staff networks were launched back in 2014 to offer a forum where people can come together to share ideas, support one another, and raise awareness of the challenges they face.

The networks have recently been reviewed and I’m pleased to share some of these changes.

New names

Network members wanted to update the networks and voted on the following name changes:

  • BAME Staff Network is now known as the Race Equalities Network
  • Disability Staff Network is now called the ENABLED Network (this stands for Enhancing Ability, Learning from Disability)
  • LGBT Staff Network is now identified as the Pride Network.

Our staff networks are a safe space for everyone to come together to support each other, make change happen and learn from one another. You do not need to identify as having a protected characteristic linked to the group, the networks are open to everyone (including allies) and those that simply want to learn more. You can join one, some or all the networks.

You can get more information on each of these networks with our new leaflets here:

Recruitment of new co-chairs

We are looking to recruit co-chairs for both our ENABLED and Pride Networks. Both currently have a chair in place, so the new roles will be well supported by existing chairs and our EDI team. If you think you have something to bring to either network and are interested in finding out what the co-chair role involves and how to apply, click here.

I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our previous co-chairs for their contribution over the years:

  • Joe McAtominey stepped down from his position as deputy chair of the disability staff network. I know that network members and the chair, Cheryl Gascoigne, would like to thank him for his contributions in driving forward the agenda for a more inclusive workplace for colleagues with disabilities, long-term health conditions and those who are neurodiverse. We wish Joe all the best for the future.
  • The Reverend Captain Katie Watson decided to step down from her position of the co-chair of the LGBT staff network and I’d like to thank her for all of the support she has provided. Mark Ellerby-Hedley, the continuing co-chair, said of her contribution: “Katie has been an absolutely amazing co-chair of the LGBT staff network. Her commitment, passion and kindness have shone through and has helped both staff and patients throughout her time as a member, and then co-chair of the LGBT staff network.”

So, if you think you can follow in their footsteps and are passionate about driving forward positive change for all – the team would love to hear from you.

Staff vaccination programme

This winter could be the first time we see the real effects of both Covid and flu, so it remains vital that we do everything we can to protect ourselves, patients and colleagues and support NHS resilience over the coming months.

At the start of November, I took the opportunity to have my winter boost and had both my vaccinations to protect me against covid-19 and flu and I would recommend you get your vaccinations as soon as you can.

Over 10,000 staff have taken up the opportunity to have their flu vaccine, and nearly 9,500 have had their COVID-19 autumn booster – thank you for helping to protect our patients. You can find out more information about where you can get your vaccinations on the Intranet.

For every vaccination, Newcastle Hospitals Charity will donate £1 to the chaplaincy staff support fund.

An update from our governors

This autumn, our governors have been busy engaging with the public and patients to seek their views on Newcastle Hospitals. This has included joining the quality of patient experience (QPE) working group, as well as ward and department visits, which restarted in September after pausing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The governors have told me how grateful they have been for the kind reception received on the visits and were particularly impressed – as were the patients and families they met – by how well the staff are managing the ongoing operational pressures.

Our governors also represented the patient and public view in other Trust activities, and I was delighted they were able to contribute to the judging panels of both our Celebrating Excellence awards and People at our Heart awards. These awards show the very best the Trust has to offer and provide governors with real inspiration.

The governors are looking to engage with staff and constituents wherever possible and would like to extend engagement. If you would like to communicate with the governors, please get in touch: [email protected]

Awards and achievements

  • Hospice UK awards – Our partnership working with St Oswald’s won The Michael Howard Award for the Joint Support service at the Hospice UK Awards this week.
  • Nursing Times Awards – Congratulations to our winners of the Nursing Times Awards:
    • Overseas Nurse of the Year, Audrey Rose Tapang
    • Best Workplace for Learning and Development in partnership with NHS Arden and GEM CSU: Maximising your potential – Leadership Development Programme.You can read more about the winners here.
  • Society of British Dental Nurses Awards – Senior Dental Nurse Carole Harper won the Dental Nurse Leadership category in the Society of British Dental Nurses Awards this week, in recognition of how Carole stepped up to the challenge when there were unexpected tutor shortages.
  • Honorary Doctorate – Congratulations to Professor Kath McCourt CBE FRCN and our deputy chair, who received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Cumbria. This is the highest honorary award the university can bestow – find out more about this here.



And finally, after more than 13 years with us, our Director of HR Dee Fawcett retired this month. I’d like to thank Dee for her leadership and support to staff.