Our People, Our Culture

In my last blog I talked about the importance of our people and culture, and particularly focussed on ensuring that every member of staff feels confident and able to speak up and raise concerns, safe in the knowledge that leaders will listen and act fairly.

This week we have heard so much about the appalling crimes committed at the Countess of Chester Hospital, and the tragic impact on so many babies and families, and of course this has further focussed our minds on how critical it is that everyone should feel able to be heard.

Our thoughts of course remain with those families who have been bereaved and I want to particularly acknowledge the compassionate efforts of staff on our own neonatal unit who have supported our current parents as news emerged of the terrible verdicts last week.

Earlier this week, the executive team and I wrote to all staff setting out our commitment to listen to and act on any concerns that may be raised about working here. We also set out the different routes to raising issues which are available to everyone.  We will be putting clear reminders about these contact details on the intranet and screen savers.   Please feel confident that you will be supported to speak out when something doesn’t feel right.

Working in the NHS is not easy at the moment. It’s been a tough few years and the demands placed upon us can seem relentless.  Events of the last week have shaken us all and I want to encourage everyone to take a moment to check in on colleagues and take care of each other.

Dame Jackie talking to sister in blue uniform and matron in purple uniform outside a bay 2 on ward 38.

Yesterday I spent time with the team from ward 38 in the Institute of Transplantation.  Ward 38 is a unique ward which supports patients who have had a range of solid organ transplants including heart, liver, pancreas and lung transplants.  Some have had multiple organ transplants while other patients are awaiting future transplants.  The team often form a lifelong relationship with their patients who may return for future care and treatment in relation to their transplants.

It was an incredibly busy morning when I visited, but I was able to speak in detail to Matron Julia Ibbotson and Ward Manager Alison Brooks.  I was struck by how incredibly proud they both are of their service and the whole multi-specialty team.

They talked about how open they have been to recent CQC inspections and other sources of feedback from patients, families and of course from staff.  They described a positive, learning approach which is underpinned by experienced staff, working together.

We discussed many things that are currently worrying people – work pressures, the potential winter demands approaching, the recent CQC inspection – as well as other issues like the cost of living crisis and the impact of climate change.  These are all things which are having an impact on how people feel at work as well as at home and Alison talked about the importance of having a supportive and flexible team that can rely on each other.  We also reflected on the impact of change and making sure that good, clear and reliable information is available to help people navigate changes that affect them.  Thank you to everyone who contributes to this positive and effective team – it was a pleasure to spend time with you.

In the coming weeks, the executive team alongside our clinical board leadership teams will be holding a series of opportunities to check-in with staff in the context of some of our current challenges, providing an opportunity to think about four key areas – quality and patient safety, emergency and elective care, people and finance – and consider our priorities.

Our Clinical Board leaders will provide updates on our organisational restructure and how our Clinical Boards are becoming established so that we can deliver better patient care and be ‘fit for the future’.

We’re already seeing advantages to these new ways of working including more effective use of clinical accommodation and shared learning from cost improvement programmes, reducing waste and enhancing efficiency – all of which has a positive impact on patients.

As ever, what’s really important is hearing from staff about your priorities and making sure we are quick to take action wherever we can on the issues that will make a difference and help to strengthen Newcastle Hospitals as a kind and compassionate place to work.

That is the most reliable way that we can deliver what’s best for our patients and continue to provide the world class care that we are all so proud to deliver each day.

Chief Information Officer

I was delighted to announce earlier this week that we’d appointed Shauna McMahon as our new Chief Information Officer to oversee digital technology and innovation across the trust.Shauna McMahon

Shauna will join us in January from North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust and Hull University Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust where she is currently its Group CIO and Senior Information Risk Owner (SIRO).

As a member of the Executive Team and Trust Board, Shauna will be responsible for developing and delivering Newcastle’s information and technology strategy, as well as leading digital innovation and service change throughout the organisation. You can read more here.

Lisa Sewell will continue as acting CIO until Shauna joins us and I am grateful to her for providing continued leadership during this transition.

Northern Centre for Cancer Care, North Cumbria

It’s hard to believe it’s now been two years since we welcomed our first patients into the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, North Cumbria, and of course patients can still access cancer services, such as chemotherapy, in Whitehaven.

One of the huge benefits of the centre has been care closer to home for the majority of adult cancer patients living in this beautiful part of the region.Northern Centre for Cancer Care North Cumbria

Only patients with rare cancers, those requiring very specialist radiotherapy and children and young people with cancer have continued to be referred to the Freeman Hospital and even that is changing as our Carlisle team has recently expanded their Stereotactic Ablative Radiotherapy (SABR) treatment service to include patients with prostate cancer.

SABR is a way of giving radiotherapy to precisely target certain cancers and the service was initially launched last November to benefit patients with early stage lung cancer – to date treating 27 people at the centre on the Cumberland Infirmary site who would otherwise have travelled to Newcastle.

It’s great to see the NCCC team in Carlisle are now extending this treatment to more cancer patients – it’s another milestone towards greater alignment with what is provided on our Freeman site and adds to service resilience, improves staff morale, helps with recruitment and retention, allowing for seamless operations between our two centres with the local teams acting as one.

We’re also seeing more patients through the centre – for example radiotherapy treatments increased significantly in the last year with the team seeing 970 patients and delivering 11,401 fractions – or doses – of radiotherapy between August 2022 and July 2023 (compared to 796 patients and 8,888 fractions the previous year).

I’d like to thank everyone who works incredibly hard in this fantastic centre and continues to make it a calm and comfortable environment for all our patients.

Awards and Achievements

HSJ Awards

Great news that Collaborative Newcastle, our innovative partnership which aims to transform the health, wealth and wellbeing of people living in Newcastle, has been shortlisted in the ‘Place-based Partnership and Integrated Care’ category in this year’s Health Service Journal Awards.

The ‘Learning to Lead Together’ program is part of ongoing work to bring together knowledge, expertise and resources from across public and third sector partners, to enhance and improve health and care, as well as growth and prosperity in the city. You can read more here.

In addition, the National Renal Complement Therapeutics Centre is a finalist in the ‘Acute Sector Innovation of the Year’ – again a fantastic achievement.

Nursing Times Workforce Awards

Congratulations to our two teams who have been named as finalists in this year’s Nursing Times Workforce Awards flying the flag for the Trust in the following categories:

  • Best workplace for Learning and Development – for our ‘Paediatric OSCE bootcamp’ a collaborative effort between our Clinical Educators at the Great North Children’s Hospital and the International Recruitment team as they welcome and support new paediatric nurses from overseas who have made the life changing decision to leave their homeland to start afresh in Newcastle.
  • Best recruitment experience – for our community-based Widening Access for Healthcare Support Worker (HCSW) recruitment event earlier this year. Held in the west end of Newcastle, the team aimed to recruit people from our local communities and in particular from under-represented groups, with the aspiration of employing new recruits. The event received an overwhelming response, attracting hundreds of interested individuals seeking to kickstart a healthcare career with the Trust.

Our community hero Dianne

Clinical trials associate Dianne Turner, who works in late phase cancer clinical trials at the Freeman Hospital, has been named a ‘community hero’ for her incredible commitment to setting up ‘A New Chapter North East’ which helps others experiencing grief. The group, whose first meeting in late 2022 was attended by six people, now has over 360 members.