Our patients’ experience matters

Our patients are at the heart of our organisation, and this week I wanted to highlight the exciting and important work we are doing to improve the way we ask for, listen to, collect, and act upon feedback from patients, visitors, and carers using our hospitals and community services.

We know that understanding and acting upon patient experience feedback is vital for improving the quality of care we provide. It gives power to our patients, and it helps us continually make more informed improvements to our care.

I know how much this matters to staff. It’s a subject which often comes up as I visit services, and its true to say that we already make great efforts to collect and act upon feedback. But we’re ambitious, and we know we can make it easier for people to tell us their views and do more with that information.

We want to make it easier;

  • for staff to really listen to what patients and carers say,
  • for patients to connect with each other and share their expertise to help each other, and
  • to show where feedback has made a difference and made our services better.

Over the last few weeks, teams across the trust have been thinking about how to make patient experience feedback as important as other quality and safety information. We considered this at our recent trust management group of senior leaders and also at our board development session – this really is a subject which is everybody’s business. We can all relate to experiences from our home lives as well as our working lives which can help us to improve.

At the same time, staff have been out and about asking patients, carers, and visitors what we can do to make it even easier for them to feedback on their experiences when they use our hospitals and community services. We’ve had recording facilities at both the RVI and Freeman to capture the real-time views of patients in their own words.

All the feedback collected through the various face to face activities, focus groups and surveys will be used to co-produce a new strategy for patient experience over the summer months, so we can start to roll out some new ways of working in the Autumn.

I know that many of you will already have provided feedback, and there’s still some time to give your views at this stage of our engagement. I would encourage you to fill in the survey before it closes on 16 July. You may even win some shopping vouchers for taking part.

Visit to Medicine Wards

On Monday (10 July) I spent the afternoon visiting four of our medicine wards at the RVI including ward 30 (Gastroenterology), ward 42 (stroke), ward 48 (respiratory) and our Respiratory Support Unit (ward 49).

These are all busy, high throughput wards and I heard from the teams about how they are focussing on quality improvement and streamlining processes wherever they see an opportunity.

Each of the teams talked about the improved staffing position they were in, having recently recruited new staff members. Several had high quality and enthusiastic nursing students who hoped to join their teams after graduation. They also told me about the strengths that international recruits had bought to the team, and it was lovely to learn about the support offered to those new recruits to help them to settle in.

As a regional service, I was interested to hear about the coordination needed to manage patient pathways and get them back to their own areas once the acute phase of care was complete. It struck me that this is an area where we could collaborate with our partners more clearly and this is something I will discuss with colleagues in the wider system.

I was also struck by how much these services have changed and improved through clinical innovation over recent years. This was especially true for our stroke services where senior sister Jan Kemp told us about the improved outcomes for patients since we adopted thrombectomy which has hugely reduced some of the long-term effects that many patients experience.

On ward 48, I was interested to hear about the discharge improvement work which has just been introduced, supported by discharge improvement programme lead Suzanne Harkness. The team are hopeful that this will simplify discharges and ensure that any delays are avoided. We talked about the relationship between wards 48 and 52 as ward based respiratory units with our more specialist Respiratory Support Unit on Ward 49.

Matron Jenny Cain explained to me that the Respiratory Support Unit is a new service which provides specialist care and treatment such as high flow oxygen and non-invasive ventilation (NIV) for patients with acute respiratory failure. Patients on the unit should need level 2 care, meaning that they don’t need intensive care (level 3) but do need more respiratory support than they would get on a ward with oxygen therapy.

As this is a relatively new way of working, the team are looking at how they can make sure that they get the right referrals so that the right patients get to this specialist service promptly. This currently involves a quality improvement programme the RSU are enrolled in with consultant Nick Lane, senior sister Peter Milton, matron Jenny Cain, clinical specialist physiotherapist Sara Chapman and associate director of operations Melanie Cunningham are involved in.

I’d like to thank Jenny and all the ward sisters and staff that I met, and all of the wider team for their hard work.

Dragons’ Den

Clinical research can have a hugely positive impact on patient experience. We know that patients admitted to research-active hospitals are better informed about their condition and treatment.

As part of our ambitious clinical research strategy, we want everyone to have the chance to lead, support, or become involved in research.

Some of the everyday questions we ask, such as why we do something a certain way, can be the subject of a research question. This is why we’ve recently launched the Dragons’ Den, which aims to support colleagues who are not usually involved in research to explore an idea they might have.

For successful applicants, Dragons’ Den offers a package of support, including a single grant of up to £25,000 alongside other support tailored to your idea.

Applications are welcome for clinical and non-clinical ideas and need to be submitted by 30 July 2023. You can find out more here.

I look forward to hearing more about the successful applicants’ ideas.

Northern Pride and Blue Light Breakfast

This year we marked the start of Northern Pride with the unveiling of our trust as a Pride Media Centre Community Champion at the Pride Radio studios in Gateshead.

Pride Radio broadcasts in 127 countries, including some countries where being part of the LGBTQ+ community is punishable by death. By becoming a Community Champion we’re demonstrating our commitment to raising awareness of LGBTQ+ issues and promoting social inclusion and diversity across our region.

In healthcare, we know that many LGBTQ+ people still face inequalities in accessing services, clinical outcomes, and their experience of care. Pride is an important opportunity for us to show support and solidarity to our LGBTQ+ patients and colleagues. I know that some colleagues don’t yet feel comfortable enough to be their true selves at work and I remember how difficult that can feel. We each have a responsibility to create an inclusive environment where everyone feels welcomed, valued, and can truly be themselves.

Pride will be celebrated in Newcastle on Saturday 22 July, beginning by jointly hosting the Blue Light Breakfast at Newcastle Civic Centre alongside the North East Ambulance Service, Tyne & Wear Fire and Rescue Service and Northumbria Police. This is a great, family friendly opportunity to meet LGBTQ+ colleagues and allies from across the blue light services before the march through the city to the Northern Pride Festival itself.

Everyone is welcome to join the march which will begin at 12noon outside Newcastle Civic Centre – you are invited to join us from 11.30am as we assemble the Newcastle Hospitals contingent which will have flags and banners so you will be able to spot them in the crowd to march loud and proud!

Our sexual health team will be in the health and wellbeing zone throughout Pride, providing checks for sexually transmitted infections and offering help and advice on various sexual health issues. Our recruitment and equality, diversity and inclusion teams will also be in the main marketplace with recruitment information – do pop along and say hello to everyone representing Newcastle Hospitals on the day.

Project Choice graduation

Huge congratulations to all of our Project Choice (now known as Choices College) interns who graduated from the programme this week – it is always a special occasion and an opportunity to hear all about their achievements.

Project Choice is a supported internship programme for young adults with learning difficulties, disabilities or Autism and has been running across Newcastle Hospitals since 2012. The programme continues to go from strength to strength and to date 112 young adults have completed the programme. We’re also extremely proud to have an impressively high transition rate from internship to employment (79%) which remains one of the highest in the country.
Congratulations again to all our graduating interns. If any departments would be interested in hosting an intern from September, please contact Lorna Harasymiuk on [email protected].

NHS 75

NHS flags at Central Station

Last week we celebrated the 75th birthday of the NHS, I was proud and privileged to attend the service at Westminster Abbey to mark this special anniversary. I have worked in the NHS for 42 years and although there is still more to do to ensure it is there to serve future generations, I’m extremely proud of all that has been achieved so far.

Here in Newcastle, it was a real pleasure to see so much support from people across the city – this wonderful video captures just some of the highlights from the day. Some of our services also featured in media coverage across the week including the emergency admissions suite at the Freeman and the CHIPS team – who provide vital support to children and young people across the region.

I hope everyone was able to take a moment to reflect on the impact you all have on providing the very best care to our patients.

Awards and achievements

This week I had the pleasure to announce the finalists for this year’s Celebrating Excellence Awards – our judges once again had a difficult time selecting our finalists as the standard of entries was so high. Huge congratulations to everyone shortlisted – you can see a full list here.

Congratulations also to:

  • Community nursery nurse Micki Short who has been awarded a Cavell Nurse Trust Star Award in recognition of going above and beyond in her support for families seeking asylum in Newcastle. Read more about Micki’s award here.
  • Professor Dave Jones and the team at Newcastle Centre for Rare Disease who’ve received £14m for a UK Rare Disease Research Platform, thanks to funding from Medical Research Council (MRC) and the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). The platform brings together experience from across the UK to help people living with rare conditions.