Reflections on my first year

In a week’s time I will have been at Newcastle Hospitals for a year. I cannot believe how quickly that time has gone. No two years as a healthcare CEO are ever the same. Sure, there are patterns of meetings and regular events throughout the year but it is rarely these things that define the time or experience. In a few moments of reflection I made note of the things that have for me stood out across the last year:

Warmth and compassion

I have been humbled by the warm welcome I have received from staff across the Trust. Last year, I met Cheryl and Joseph from occupational therapy at our Pop-up hospital.

The first thing I noted was the exceptionally warm welcome I received from staff right across our hospitals and in our community services. Looking back I now appreciate that our staff display the same warmth and compassion to newcomers as they do to patients, their families, colleagues and team members. I have spoken about this before but it is these human qualities that make our organisation so special – people do business with people.

I see many staff who care deeply about the work they do and invest years and whole careers in that pursuit. We should never take that for granted which is why during my first year I have tried to spend time meeting with staff and listening and recognising the actions we can take to support them in doing a great job.

Supporting our staff to #Flourish

During the last year we have launched Flourish as a cornerstone programme for staff right across the Trust. I am really pleased that so many of you have engaged in this work. The outward facing publicity and material linked to Flourish may appear simple but it is not only about mindfulness, exercise, nutrition etc (although I believe these are the basic building blocks supporting our wellbeing). There are lots of other programmes of work – for example exploring the additional risk factors when staff on night duty are fatigued.

One piece of work started recently is examining the flexible options we might create for those staff beyond 60 plus who want to continue to work but are looking for additional flexibility or even a career change! If you have an idea which you think would support staff, then please tell us about it. Flourish will grow and develop over time so there are no limits are no limits to the number of things we can look at, big or small it doesn’t matter. The underlying principle is that if they support staff to feel and be the best they can be they are absolutely worthy of consideration.

The important role leadership plays

At our last Senior Leadership meeting we discussed our Newcastle health wealth & wellbeing plan, our sustainability programme, governance & leadership

Leadership is important in any organisation. When I talk about leaders I include myself as CEO, my executive team and the formal hierarchy of leadership teams which make up our directorates. However I am sure you know leaders come from all corners of our hospitals and services. They can work at any level and are certainly not defined by title or grade. I have created several new leadership forums over the last year. The Trust Management Group meets every six weeks and comprises of our senior 50 leaders. This group is instrumental on steering the formation of strategy for the board to consider, troubleshooting day-to-day specific issues as well as co-directing day-to-day operational management.

Every quarter we now hold a Leadership Congress which comprises of up to 250 leaders across our Trust. This is a more diverse group and we discuss particular topics of mutual interest with external speakers as well as our own staff. I’m aware there are many more leadership forums such as the admin and clerical forum which I have attended.

Research and innovation

The wonderful thing about working in a Foundation Trust the size and scale of ours are the opportunities created by being a large academic teaching and training centre. We are fortunate to work alongside great universities which attract enthusiasts across the healthcare disciplines to keep learning and pushing the boundaries of what we are able to offer our patients. We are a research rich and active organisation, bringing funding and attracting talent to ensure this continues.

While we provide a full range of hospital services, we also provide highly specialised care and treatment. This blend constantly pushes the boundaries of new treatment regimes and provides a legacy for future generations. I have enjoyed learning more about our specialised services and treatment and working at regional and national level to ensure we retain the reputation for excellence in all we do.

Investing in partnership working

Much of my time over the last year has been spent building the relationships necessary to form robust and vibrant partnerships with those who have a vested interest in supporting us in all we do. Many of our clinicians and staff work with partners on a daily on a daily basis and I think we are earning a reputation to be the partner of choice. That is good for everyone – especially our patients.

Quality and delivery

There is no doubt on many levels it has been a good year. We ended 2018/2019 achieving the vast majority of the standards and targets against which we are measured. Best of all for me we continue to rank amongst the best in the country for the positive feedback we receive from our patients and families. I was also delighted at the rate of return from the staff survey and the overwhelmingly positive feedback we received. We should take none of this for granted.

Quality remains our number one priority as we ensure that we continue to place patients at the heart of everything we do. Thank you to all staff and teams who contributed so positively to our recent inspection by the CQC – we await the results, but the inspection teams were rightly impressed by the compassionate care they witnessed from staff.

The next 12 months…

Looking ahead to the next year my sights are focused on publishing the strategy to support care and treatment across our hospitals and services for the next five years. Many of you have been involved in developing the strategy and you can expect to see it published this June. We will make sure through a series of roadshows and events, that staff across the Trust understand the direction of travel and how you can contribute to our delivery plan.

We have an ultra-busy year ahead with our GDE (global digital exemplar) programme extending our digital technology much further to support delivery.

Our partnership working will continue as we fulfil an important role in supporting the regional specialist services while working on new models of care delivery in the city of Newcastle.

I want to continue to meet with you and your colleagues in your teams as these are, by far, the most important and enjoyable time of my week! I always come back to my office with a deeper understanding of the opportunities and challenges you face and with a sense of pride seeing the great care you deliver. These visits help further develop my understanding of the things I need to influence and change to support you to improve in the future.

I am delighted to have been asked to contribute to the NHS assembly. This is a group of around 50 people nationally who will help to steer the NHS Long Term Plan through delivery, making sure we reap the benefit from additional investment and new ways of working so that our NHS continues to deliver the very best care and treatment for our patients. I will continue to ensure Newcastle Hospitals is at the forefront of care delivery.


Thank you to everyone who submitted nominations to our inaugural staff excellence awards event. We were overwhelmed to receive over 500 entries and the judges will have a very difficult decision to and I’m looking forward to announcing our shortlisted nominations in a few weeks time.

Our Flourish theme next month is ‘Mindful May’. Our psychology teams have developed a range of factsheets and resources to support you which will be available on the Flourish website next week. There are also some mindfulness sessions on offer so please try to pop along if you would like to learn a bit more.

Next month (13-17 May) we’ll also be celebrating the eighth Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week #EQW2019 which is a national platform for organisations to highlight their work to create a fairer, more inclusive NHS for patients and staff.

A full programme of events has been co-ordinated with sessions including mindfulness, workplace behaviour and communicating with impact. You can find these on our Trust Intranet.

Thank you to our deep cleaners!

The Easter Bank Holiday weekend saw a full deep clean and other supportive works to ward 31 at the RVI, which has seen a number of norovirus outbreaks. This has been highlighted to me as a really good example of how a team can be brought together at short notice and to deliver a
task with minimum disruption to patient care.

Thank you to everyone in the team for their hard work and for giving up some of their Bank Holiday weekend to help, including the estates team who arranged the cleaning of radiators and ceiling vents, together with re-painting and repairing parts of the bathrooms at very short notice.

Visit to Infectious Diseases

Great to find out more about the highly specialised work of the Infectious Diseases Unit.

This month, I visited the Infectious Diseases Unit where I was given an HCID (high consequence infectious diseases) demonstration and saw the detailed process to remove personal protective equipment. It was clear to see the high level of expertise and teamwork which is vital to care for patients at such high levels of isolation. It was fascinating to see first-hand the spectrum of services the team provide, from providing care locally through primary care services, right up to providing highly specialist national services such as caring for patients
with Ebola.

Awards and recognition

Huge congratulations to all of the following individuals and teams for making a difference to our patients:

  • We had two finalists in the prestigious BMJ Awards which were held on Wednesday event – our regional anaesthesia and acute pain service team for their proactive and radical approach to responding to the need for more effective pain management of post amputation surgery and our respiratory specialists for all, region-wide collaboration called BREATHE.
  • Our team of Macmillan end of life care healthcare assistants have been shortlisted for the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) Excellence in Patient Care Awards in the patient-centred care category. Good luck and enjoy the ceremony!
  • I’m delighted to see our IT team have been announced as national finalists for the GovNews Direct Public Sector Paperless Awards for ‘paperlite project of the year’ and ‘best digital document management award’.

Finally thank you to everyone who received Long Service Awards this month for 25, 35 & 45 years’ service to the Trust. We’re extremely proud to celebrate the dedication of our staff in supporting the Trust and it’s great to see that commitment recognised at this event.