People at our heart

Last year when we reviewed our Trust strategy and brand, we chose ‘Healthcare at its best, with people at our heart’ as our strapline.  It summed up the essence of what we hope to do here in Newcastle.

As we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis it seems even more important that we focus on the people at our heart.

There won’t be a single member of staff that hasn’t been affected by the pandemic…

Whether you are someone who has been caring directly for patients when they were acutely unwell, dying or recovering; continuing to provide our usual specialist services in a totally changed environment; or supporting our patients from home whilst shielding, or in any other circumstance – this has been a difficult, traumatic and stressful experience. And every one of those experiences will be unique.

Dr Kathryn Mannix, author of the book ‘With the End in Mind’ and a former Newcastle palliative care consultant, offered to return to work at Newcastle Hospitals during the pandemic to offer support to the wider team.

Recently, I invited her to speak to our Trust Management Group (the 50 senior clinical and managerial leaders in the organisation) to help us to reflect, as leaders, both upon the impact and emotions we have experienced.

Kathryn helped us to consider the last few months and gave us some feedback from colleagues. She highlighted the hard work and challenges that everyone has experienced and talked about the fear, anxiety and sorrow that many have felt, as well as the pride of belonging to a strong and caring team.

This feedback resonated very closely with the face-to-face conversations I’ve been having with staff in my regular check-in sessions.

It also reflects how I’ve felt personally.  None of us are immune from these emotions, and we will all cope in different ways.  We can’t guess how anyone will respond to this unprecedented situation and often won’t know the additional stresses that home life has brought to many staff.

What is clear now is the ways of working that we have had to adapt to will be with us for a long time, and so we need to think about looking after ourselves and each other for the long haul.  Each of us as colleagues, friends, leaders and individuals need to think about what will sustain us and what will inspire us.

I want to encourage everyone to think about what actions you can take personally and in your own teams to stay well.

Can you say thank you more often or offer praise and positive feedback for example?

Can we be more alert for distress in our colleagues and offer a friendly shoulder?

Can we all model the behaviours that we know have a positive impact on our mental health, even something as simple as finishing work on time and ‘switching off’?

Can we all be mindful of truly putting people at our heart as we build back?

Dr Mannix shared this quote with us: “It’s been tough, and well-organised, and nail biting, and sorrowful, and difficult, and successful, and challenging, and fascinating, and…’

Now it’s time to begin the long process of personal and human recovery.  Each of us will need some time and, no doubt, each of us will wobble as we come out of this shared experience.

We now have a range of self-help guides covering areas such as anxiety, depression and getting a good night’s sleep which are free to download and are available in a range of formats. All of the other mental health resources for staff can be found on our website.

I hope that if we remember to follow our values – to care and be kind –that we will all feel supported.

Do you have a passion for research and innovation?

This April, the Trust was awarded the internationally renowned Academic Health Science Centre (AHSC), designation along with our partners Newcastle University, Newcastle City Council, the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and Cumbria and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust.

An AHSC is the research and healthcare structure adopted by many of the world’s leading academic institutions and hospitals.  Based on breaking down barriers and increasing co-operation and focus, they seek to combine basic and translational health research, clinical care and education to create world-leading improvements in health and social care.

The aim of Newcastle Health Innovation Partners is to deliver a step-change improvement in the health, wealth and wellbeing of a population of 3.2 million people in the North East of England and North Cumbria.

In order to do this, Professor John Isaacs and Dr Vicky McFarlane-Reid are welcoming applications for an ‘open seat ‘at the Joint Research, Innovation and Enterprise Strategy Group. This group will meet bi-monthly and will develop a high level research innovation and enterprise strategy that maximises the opportunities for collaborative research and innovation across partner organisations.

The ‘open seat’ will rotate membership every six months and also rotate amongst the partner organisations, but Newcastle Hospitals will be the host organisation for the first rotation.

We are looking for applicants who have a passion for research and innovation.  You might be very early in your career; you might have been with our Trust for many years.  You might already be involved with research and innovation, you might always have wanted to….

If you are interested please email  [email protected] with 100 words which describe why we should give the open seat to you.

Deadline for expressions of interest is 14 August and there will be no expectations on your shoulders; the ‘open seat’ is an observatory for someone who might not ordinarily be invited into this type of forum.  It’s a place to learn and look and of course contribute to discussion should you wish.

We are also committed to increasing the diversity of our Newcastle Healthcare Innovation Partners, Research, Innovation, Enterprise and Strategy Group and positively improve the balance of female and Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic applicant representation. To help us achieve this, we are seeking applications from people whose background, experience and identity will broaden and enhance a balance of perspectives in navigating the challenges we face going forward.

Listening to our patients

This month, Newcastle Hospitals was once again rated amongst the best performing trusts in the CQC’s national inpatient survey which gathers their views on all aspects of patient care such as the hospital environment, communication and patient experience.

We are thrilled to be seen as a national leader for our inpatient care and I’d like to thank all of our staff for their commitment to ensuring we deliver high quality, safe care.  Thank you also to everyone who took the time to respond to the survey – it is always helpful to receive feedback from patients so we can drive further improvement.

Northern Pride

Today, we were due to host the first national LGBT+ staff conference as part of the UK Pride Festival in which Newcastle had been chosen as the host city.

Unfortunately the current pandemic has put the Festival on hold until next year although a virtual event will take place tomorrow.

I know how hard people have worked to focus on LGBT+ inclusion across the organisation and we have achieved a lot including being placed at number 40 in Stonewall’s UK Workplace Equality Index and launching the NHS Rainbow Badge initiative which over 5,000 members of staff now wear with pride. We have captured some of our achievements in a short video you can watch here.

Congratulations to…

  • Alyson Laws, a specialist nurse for continence in the community, who was awarded the title of Queen’s Nurse reflecting her commitment to high standards of patient care, education, and leadership in continence care. Alyson has helped to develop the service across the city which, in turn, has improved the quality of life for thousands of people.
  • CRUK Research Nurse Specialist Ben Hood has been named a finalist in the ‘Excellence in Cancer Research Nursing’ category of the RCNi Awards for his role in developing a pilot project to highlight the role of clinical research nurses in cancer services that could be used across the UK. A virtual awards ceremony will be held later this year.
  • All of our teams and staff networks who have worked so to hard help the Trust achieve a double accolade in the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion Awards. We were highly commended for our work with NHS organisations across the region to hold a recruitment event for the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community, as well as our Project Choice programme, which offers a pathway to employment for young people with neurodiverse conditions.
  • Free Spirits Nursery at the Freeman Hospital, which was awarded ‘Outstanding’ status by Ofsted for the second time in a row at the start of the year, also celebrated its 20th birthday in May.  A garden party had been planned to celebrate both achievements but due to COVID-19, we will look to mark this in another way.