Proud of our people

Last week we invited BBC health editor, Hugh Pym and his team, as well as Martha Kearney and the Today programme to report from Newcastle Hospitals. They were able to tell the story of the pressures that we’re dealing with at the moment, through the Emergency Department, assessment suite and same day emergency care centre, our daily command response and into our wards to look at caring for patients with COVID-19, and also with long covid.

Thank you to everyone who took part. It was great to hear and see such a clear and consistent description of the conditions we are working under, and the impact that the pressures are having across all of our services.

I was particularly proud to see that everyone had a very clear focus on doing their best for our patients, and making sure that they were able to get effective and compassionate care and treatment whatever their needs. That came through very strongly in everyone’s interviews.

The positive and supportive feedback that we have had from our patients, city leaders and from across the NHS reinforces what we know – that we are doing the best we can in the toughest of conditions.

Our high standards were also recognised last week, as we celebrated success at the HSJ awards. We were highly commended as Trust of the Year and in the Connecting Services and Information award category, and finalists for Provider Collaboration of the Year – The Great North Care Record on behalf of North East and North Cumbria ICS.

Our work with Collaborative Newcastle to support our most vulnerable citizens in care homes also won the Health and Local Government Partnership Award. Competition for these awards is fierce and they are judged by a wide panel of experts from within the NHS and wider health system, so it really is a great achievement to do so well in this remarkable year for the NHS.

Our people and diversity

What makes all of this possible of course, is our people. Passionate individuals working in strong teams to achieve their goal is what makes our organisation tick. While we often talk about the whole organisation, looking at the experience of each person is equally, if not more, important.

That’s why I’m so keen to make sure that our Flourish organisational development programme continues to be at the heart of how we work. In saying that I’m not at all suggesting that we currently get everything right for our people – quite the opposite. I am very clear that we have a lot more work to do to listen and respond to staff, provide better health and wellbeing support, become more flexible and generally become a satisfying place to work. I’m committed to making sure that we take sure steps to liberate the potential of all our staff.

For some staff, their experience at work can be much more difficult than most, and this has been very much on my mind as I have listened to the appalling experiences that have been highlighted by Azzim Rafiq during his time with the Yorkshire cricket team.

It made me reflect back to the conversations I had earlier this year with my mentor, Poonam Singh, from the BAME network, about what we can do to ensure that all of our colleagues – particularly those with protected characteristics – can thrive and grow here. All of our staff networks are working hard with us to improve the experience of staff. I wanted to highlight some of the areas where we’re taking positive action to tackle inequalities.

One of the major areas that our equality, diversity and inclusion team has focussed on is ‘‘microaggressions’ – a term used to describe the sadly all too common daily verbal, behavioural or environmental ‘slights’ (whether intentional or unintentional) that communicate negative attitudes towards colleagues from different backgrounds.

It’s something that our BAME network members report frequently and we all need to be mindful of – and change – our behaviour. A new training course on preventing microagressions and incivility is being rolled out through directorates and I would encourage you to find out more or watch this short video which was developed by our staff network last year and includes some very personal experiences which staff have shared so that we can learn and change.

It’s heart-breaking to hear about the experiences that our BAME staff, and those from other protected groups, experience at work. It’s not acceptable that anyone should experience racism, homophobia, disability hate or other distressing experiences at work and I want to once again encourage anyone who is experiencing this who sees this happening, to raise the concerns and seek help through a Freedom to Speak up Guardian or discussing it with your line manager. You will have my support.

Positively, we launched our talent development programme for disabled staff last year and following its success are currently supporting a second cohort. Next year we have plans to launch a talent development programme specifically for Black, Asian and minority ethnic staff as part of our wider leadership offer. Both of these programmes are funded by our trust charity and NHS Charities Together and are an important way to make sure that we offer targeted support to future leaders.

Supporting our nurses and midwives

Nurses and midwives are one of our biggest and most diverse workforce groups, and to provide targeted support, James (JJ) Gacis and Sethukile Mpofu, two of our existing staff members, have been seconded to specifically work on inclusion. Both have been working in these project roles for a number of months and are focusing on two areas, firstly career progression for colleagues from a BAME heritage especially those starting out on their career path and achieving their first promotion. Secondly they will be working to eradicate the microaggressions and incivilities that I’ve highlighted above. I’m sure that having dedicated nurses to proactively develop our cultures will be a huge asset and I look forward to meeting them.

The future of NHS human resources and oganisational development

This week, NHS Chief People Officer Prerana Issar published ‘The future of NHS human resources and organisational development’ which sets out more detail on how the NHS will work towards delivering the NHS People Plan and gives us a new vision of NHS human resources and organisational development by 2030.

Ensuring inclusion and belonging for all is a vital part of this future direction, and I was very pleased to see a clear synergy between this new approach from NHS England and the one we have been developing here in Newcastle over the last three years as part of the Flourish programme.

Both focus on supporting all of our NHS people to achieve better wellbeing, job satisfaction, equality and development so that we can create a more resilient, flexible and sustainable service and facilitating high quality care for our communities.

As we continue to emerge from the pandemic and understand the new challenges that we face, I am determined that we will continue to make positive changes for all our workforce, so that coming to work in the NHS continues to be – and feel – rewarding.

Hearing from you

Today is your last opportunity to take part in the staff survey – a really important way for staff to share their experiences at work in a completely safe and anonymous way. Please take a few minutes to share your views so that we can continue to respond and make further improvements.

You should have received a personal email link to complete your survey, which will remain open until midnight.

Thank you to everyone who has filled the survey in to date, we’ve had the highest number of responses than ever before.

Health inequalities

Tackling health inequalities in our city is a priority in our five-year strategy and this has taken on even more significance since witnessing the impact of the pandemic on some communities which were already experiencing inequalities.

It’s shocking that despite having some of the most outstanding health and social care services in the country, people in Newcastle and the wider North East have amongst the poorest health and lowest healthy life expectancy in the UK and healthy life expectancy varies by over 10 years between different parts of the city.

We have now established a trust health inequalities steering group chaired by Martin Wilson and, with the support of Newcastle Hospitals Charity, we’ve embarked on an ambitious £2million project through Collaborative Newcastle to tackle inequalities that affect our patients.

We hope to introduce more initiatives like the scheme rolled out across Newcastle to support regular COVID-19 testing for homeless and vulnerable people – a pilot designed by the co-ordination and response team at the region’s Integrated Covid hub to make lateral flow tests readily available and accessible to people who may otherwise not have used them. I’ll say more about this wider project next time.

To support this we have also appointed a number of co-clinicial directors and clinical leads to to lead and support different aspects of our health inequalities work as we move forwards including:

• Consultant anaesthetist – Dr Maria Clement (co-clinical director)
• Consultant respiratory physician – Dr Sophie West (co-clinical director)
• Consultant community / general paediatrician – Dr Helen Leonard
(clinical lead)
• Consultant neuroradiologist – Dr Dipayan Mitra (clinical lead)
• Consultant anaesthetist – Dr James Prentis (clinical lead)

COP26 photography exhibition

At COP26 in Glasgow, the NHS hosted a unique photography exhibition ‘Care for the future: delivering the world’s first net zero health service’ which was located near the negotiating rooms as a reminder of the importance of the climate emergency on health.

We’re now the first trust in England to host the exhibition after Newcastle Hospitals Charity arts programme manager, Katie Hickman, worked closely with the Greener NHS team to bring it to the Royal Victoria Infirmary where it will be on display on Level 3 of the Leazes Wing until 21 January 2022.

You can also see my presentation to the Scottish sustainability group earlier this month here

Governor update

The Council of Governors has remained busy this autumn but asked me to include a message of thanks to you all for keeping Newcastle Hospitals going and supporting the community. Some of their activities include:

  • Working hard to increase representation to enhance and develop our trust membership by proposing and agreeing a change to the trust Constitution.
  • Providing challenge to our organisation by asking questions and representing the public voice to assure that the trust’s plans are the best they can be. Questions have focused on staff amenities, support for patient families and on our place in the new Integrated Care Systems coming next year.
  • Working to improve Council of Governor meetings and lines of communication, including seeking clarification on what governors can and should do.

The Council also welcomed a new Lead Governor, Pam Yanez, and if you have any questions for governors you can contact her at [email protected]

Schwartz Rounds

Schwartz Rounds provide a structured – but safe – forum where staff can come together to share their stories and discuss the emotional and social aspects of working in healthcare.

This month we took an important step forwards by jointly hosting a session with our mental health colleagues from Cumbria, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear (CNTW) entitled ‘Whose responsibility is it? Reflecting on working side by side in the face of risk’ which was really well received.

Two ‘pop-up’ Schwartz Rounds were also held for staff working in critical care and in total we reached around 250 staff in a day! I know next year there is an appetite to maintain the programme of monthly events, pilot a Schwartz Round in primary care and have another joint event with CNTW.

The team will continue to evaluate the impact of rounds, as well as publish findings, and if there is a need for further ‘pop-up- events this will certainly be explored.

Project menopause

After the success of our last Project Menopause event in September ’talking all things menopause’ and feedback received, we are pleased to announce our next event on Monday 6 December, which focusses on
brain fog.

Join Dr Christine Baker, head of service – psychology in healthcare, to hear about how brain fog can affect you through the menopause and remedies to assist with managing this.

There will be a Q&A at the end of the session where you have the chance to ask questions. Questions can be sent to [email protected] before Friday 3 December.

You can register for this event here or use the QR code.

Awards, achievements and events

Last night were the Bright Ideas in Health Awards 2021, which are organised by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria to celebrate the achievements of individuals and teams working within the NHS, industry and academia.

The Trust had three of their nominations shortlisted in four different categories including:

  • Digital Innovation in Health and Social Care / Demonstrating an impact upon patient safety and/or quality improvement – Newcastle’s deterioration / sepsis team for their Deteriorating patient electronic ALERT initiative, using innovative, digital technology to improve patient safety by rapidly identifying patients whose condition is worsening.
  • Innovation in Hospital or Community Education – Great North Children’s Hospital and the North East’s Young’s People Advisory Group (YPAG) for their development of ‘Virtual work experience in healthcare’
  • Research Impact Award – The NIHR Patient Recruitment Centre for their RELIEVE-IBSD virtual trial which enabled research staff to test a new treatment for patients with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) and diarrhoea despite the pandemic, using digital technology.

I’m delighted to share we had two winners – Melissa Burnside and the team won the Digital Innovation in Health and Social Care award for their Deterioration ALERT innovations, while the RELIEVE-IBSD virtual trial, led by Professor Yan Yiannakou and team at the Patient Recruitment Centre, Newcastle, won the Research Impact Award. Well done to everyone concerned.

Other areas where teams/individuals have been recognised include:

  • The team at Great North Children’s Hospital were awarded a Batten Disease Family Association Health Award in recognition of their commitment and dedication to getting complex arrangements in place for two girls to receive the specialist care they needed so much closer to home.

We have also been shortlisted in a number of categories in the NHS Business Awards which will be held on 9 December. These include:

  • Hospital Building Award – Westgate Cataract Centre
  • Telehealth Award – Robotic surgery telementoring

Good luck also to our colleagues at North Cumbria Integrated Care who have been shortlisted in the Hospital Building Award category for the Northern Centre for Cancer Care, North Cumbria, from which we provide cancer services to the local population.

Last year’s Christmas lights switch on

Finally, next week we’re hoping to bring you a little bit of seasonal cheer with the official switching on of the festive lights at the RVI and Freeman Hospital. Funded by Newcastle Hospitals Charity, we would love staff and patients to join us and there will be special guests, musical performances and complementary mince pies and hot drinks.

I’ll be at the RVI on Tuesday (30 November) at 4.30pm and our Chairman

Professor Sir John Burn will be switching on the lights at the Freeman on Wednesday (1 December) at 6pm.

Spaces are limited so if you are interested in coming along please RSVP to [email protected] by 4pm today.