Sparks of light

We are at the end of our first week of this second lockdown and also in the midst of the festival of Diwali as well as being only 6 weeks away from Christmas Day. This is a time when we would usually be focussing on festivities and plans but this year I’m sure that many of us will be having mixed feelings about the next few weeks, and worrying about how much we will be able to have something resembling a ‘normal’ celebration with our families and loved ones.

I’ve recently been discussing with my mentor Poonam about Diwali, and how we can all mark different festivals in the trust. Our Chaplains ensure that the main festivals from each of the 6 recognised world regions are celebrated but I wonder how much thought we give to the celebrations of our colleagues who have different traditions.

Diwali is the festival of lights, celebrated by millions across the world. It is a festival of new beginnings and marks the triumph of light over darkness. You can learn more about it here if you’d like to understand more.

I very much hope that this Diwali also marks the start of new light in our fight against the covid pandemic. The announcements from the Prime Minister earlier this week about the successful development of a covid vaccine is something that I was delighted to hear. It was a hugely optimistic announcement, signalling the progress that we had all hoped for. An effective vaccine is the best chance we have of seeing some sort of normality return to our lives and might be the key to enabling each of us to hug our loved ones and share good times with our friends and colleagues.

We are not there yet, and the Prime Minister clearly noted that now is not the time to slacken our resolve in controlling the spread of the virus. The infection control measures that we are all taking so seriously remain as vital as ever and ‘Hands, Face, Space’ will be our mantra for some time yet, but there is now a new hope for the next chapter of our response to the pandemic.

At Newcastle Hospitals, we have been an important research centre to help develop vaccines and we will now be playing a major role in the North East to deliver the mass vaccination programme. This roll out will hopefully begin soon – following from official approval of the vaccination. The first priority for rolling it out will be our elderly and vulnerable residents in care homes, as well as staff who work there and also to the wider population of NHS and social care healthcare workers. Following that, the roll out will follow national guidelines at pace and scale. We will keep you updated on this important development in our regular updates.

Also announced this week was the roll out of mass asymptomatic testing in Liverpool and across the NHS using lateral flow test kits. We are working closely with NHS England to ensure that this new development is made available and developing a plan for how this will be introduced across the Trust. This is a big task for a Trust as large as Newcastle Hospitals so please bear with us as we work on these plans.

While this is all excellent news, I continue to be very conscious of the pressures on everyone working in the team. I’ve heard very consistently about the worries and anxieties that staff from many different teams are facing as we tackle this second wave and it’s up to all of us to think about the best ways of making things easier wherever we can.

Many of the resources which were made available to NHS staff still exist – I’d strongly encourage everyone to review the covid staff wellbeing pages in case there are resources that could benefit you and your family. Free membership of apps like headspace is one example of something which you may not have felt you needed earlier on, but perhaps could benefit you now.

There are lots of people that you can talk to for help including your managers, staff side representatives and chaplains, as well as national helplines and I would encourage you to not struggle in silence if you are worried.

I know that financial worries are a concern to an increasing number of staff as the knock on economic impact of the pandemic impacts upon partners and wider family members. Finance has always been a cause of significant stress to many, and covid has exacerbated that.

This month, through our #FlourishAt NewcastleHospitals programme we have been offering a series of financial wellbeing sessions in association with Barclays Bank to help everyone to think wisely about their money. We’ve also updated the pages of the Flourish website with lots of useful resources. Please have a look, and I hope you will find them helpful.

I’d also like to confirm the introduction a new benefit for staff through our partnership with Earnd, which I hope might help. Earnd is an app that allows employees to choose how and when you get paid some of your salary. This allows you to align your income with expenses, track your pay as you earn it and budget how best suits you.

It’s a completely free service, and aims to give you more control over your earnings and avoid short term debt. You can find out more about Earnd here.

Antibiotic Awareness

Our antimicrobial team are raising awareness of responsible antimicrobial use and the role everyone has in preventing antimicrobial resistance during November to coincide with World Antimicrobial Awareness Week (18 – 24 November).

Antibiotic resistance is a present and growing problem. The World Health Organisation warns that by 2050, 10 million people a year worldwide will die of infections that cannot be treated due to antibiotic resistance and we have already treated patients with these multi-drug resistant bacteria here in the Trust.

Please play your part in tackling this growing problem. You can find out more here

Cultural Ambassadors

The Cultural Ambassadors Programme is designed to give Black, Asian or Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff more confidence in formal processes in NHS organisations.

Cultural Ambassadors provide independent support as a neutral observer in all formal investigations involving staff from a BAME background and advise the investigating team, disciplinary or grievance panel on equality, diversity and cultural bias issues, particularly where unfair bias (conscious or unconscious), less favourable treatment or discrimination has been identified.

They ensure that such elements are taken into consideration within the decision making process and that processes are fair, equitable and free from bias and unlawful discrimination.

Disability Conference

UK Disability History Month takes place from 22 November-22nd December, together with International Day of Persons with Disabilities on Thursday 3 December 2020.

To mark both of these events, the staff network have organised events on 3rd December, and would love you to take part.

To book a place on any of the sessions please email [email protected].

All sessions will run virtually however there are some spaces in the lecture theatres at Freeman and RVI or the Gosforth Suite at Regent Point for staff who require these. In addition if you require any reasonable adjustments to facilitate your attendance, please contact the team.

Find out more about the programme of events.

Lets talk about your clinical placement experience

The National Education and Training Survey (NETS) has been developed by Health Education England, to find out about education quality and learner experience. NETS is the only national survey open to all trainees and students working across all clinical environments. The survey is your opportunity to say what has worked well and what could be improved.

The survey only takes 6-10 minutes to complete and your experiences will help to shape education and training for current and future cohorts of trainees and students. As a future member of the health and care workforce, please ensure your voice is heard by completing the NETS.

The survey launched on 3 November 2020 and runs until 30 November 2020. Click here to complete the survey.

Staff Survey

Thank you to everyone who has been able to complete the staff survey, so far we’ve had over 6,200 responses.

Each year we invite all members of staff to share their views by taking part in the survey and your feedback this year is more important than ever. I know how hard everyone has worked – and continues to work – throughout this pandemic and there is a section which asks questions about your experience working through the first wave. The results from these questions can help us understand more about the impact the pandemic has had on our staff.

This year’s survey closes on Friday 27 November, I know how busy everyone is but if you can find the time please do fill it in. We each have a voice and the survey is a chance to make those voices heard. You can find out more about the survey and how to fill it in here.

We know this is not just any yearA shield which reads 2020 flu protected in place

I am really proud of the fast response we had at the start of the flu campaign this year. However, 30% of frontline staff have not had the flu vaccine.

I am personally asking each and every member of staff, if you can have the flu vaccine, please do. This year poses a challenge to us like no other and getting your flu vaccine is – a small – but effective way you can help protect yourself, and those you from this deadly virus.

There are only two weeks remaining of booked appointment. If you haven’t had your vaccine yet, please book an appointment to do so.

You can find the link to book an appointment on the Intranet here.

Awards and achievement

Chris Harding, consultant urologist

Golden telescope – Congratulations to Chris Harding, consultant urologist, has been awarded the ‘Harold Hopkins Golden Telescope Award’.

This is awarded annually and is given to urologists who have made a significant and lasting contribution to urology.

This is the first time this award has been made to a Newcastle urologist.

Newcastle University Medical Sciences Doctoral Thesis Prize – Well done to Dr Gemma Roberts, nuclear medicine lead clinical scientist, who has been awarded the Newcastle University Medical Sciences Doctoral Thesis Prize, which recognises outstanding quality of research carried out during doctoral research studies.

Health Tech Awards: Partnership of the Year – Healthcall Solutions Limited, a partnership with seven NHS Foundation Trusts in the North East and North Cumbria including Newcastle Hospitals, was awarded Partnership of the Year in the Health Tech Awards. This is for the hard work that has been done to deliver digital solutions to transform health and care across the region and beyond.