Spotlight on our commercial strategy

Since its creation in 1948, the NHS has been a much loved and vital part of our public sector. I have always supported – and strongly believe – that universal healthcare; free to all at the point of use is a crucial part of what makes the NHS so special. Nye Bevan’s vision and tenacity created possibly one of the greatest innovations in our recent history.

And innovation continues to be at the heart of what we do – especially here in Newcastle where we never stand still. Each of our teams is looking daily for new ways to improve and enhance our patients’ experiences.

A key pillar of our strategy is ‘Pioneering’ – we are proud of our reputation for ground-breaking research in all areas and bringing the benefits of that new knowledge to our local population quickly.

At the moment this ability to innovate in health is highly prized in the UK. NHS England has established the Accelerated Access Collaborative (AAC), a new fast track route into the NHS for breakthrough technologies and treatments which can transform care.

Our organisation is working closely with the AAC and recently its chair, Sam Roberts, visited us to learn more about our approach. It’s also one of the reasons we have now developed a Commercial Enterprise Unit.

The mandate for our CEU was approved and endorsed by the Board as a means to enhance our ability to deliver outstanding patient care by realising the commercial potential of new and existing enterprise ventures.

These ventures, many of which have been going for over a decade, have been making valuable contributions to the Trust’s overall financial picture, but we know there is so much more that can be done.

Led by our Director of Business and Enterprise, Dr Victoria McFarlane Reid, this new unit is quickly forming so that it can begin to make an impact. Vicky’s first job was to begin to develop our commercial strategy and I wanted to share this with you at an early stage.

The unit’s strategy is tightly aligned to our Trust vision with patients at the heart of every decision. Enterprise activity is not just about money and financial returns; we are looking to: enhance and raise our profile in research extend our reach to treat patients from international locations
raise the reputation of the Trust and continue to attract and retain our talent
deliver on our civic responsibilities as an anchor organisation, helping to raising the health and wellbeing of the city

I visited the surgical training centre on one of my walk abouts and spoke with Professor Naeem Soomro about their work

Staff across the Trust have been taking steps into commercial ventures for many years. Developments like the Newcastle Surgical Training Centre at the Freeman and the Severe Combined Immuno Deficiency – SCIDS service – at the Great North Children’s Hospital are great examples of innovative, sought after services which can be delivered through a commercial model, bringing much needed additional funding to the Trust.

It is a model which many large NHS organisations have adopted and found successful, but to do it at scale is new for Newcastle. It’s really important to me that we get it right. I want to be able to see the clear benefits of any enterprise activities for our patients and the quality of care they are able to receive. Fortunately those benefits are easy to identify, and can be summarised in five areas:

Reach – we are fortunate in the Trust to offer many world class specialist treatments. We can – and should – offer to treat patients from overseas who are not able to access those specialist services more locally.

Reputation – Enterprise activity will ensure we are recognised and respected as delivering world class, innovative treatments and research. The link between Enterprise, Research and Innovation is intrinsic and so exciting for our patients. Lying in this space, which touches the digital and artificial intelligence world, are many untapped potential solutions which will deliver faster, better, kinder care for our patients.

Return – To generate additional non-NHS income – which can be reinvested in local services, clinical equipment, more resources – and to attract additional investment, and jobs, to the city and the wider North East economy.

Research and learning – to further enhance teaching, education and other innovation opportunities for local people and students.

Recruitment and retention – to make Newcastle Hospitals the best place in the NHS to work and by raising our profile as an outstanding Trust, we want to attract and retain the best talent into the area. This also contributes to our role and responsibility as an anchor organisation in the city, helping to increase prosperity and improve health and wellbeing.

When defining a strategy, it’s important that we recognise what’s out of scope. Our enterprise unit will not be able to develop every business idea that teams have and will need to prioritise areas which have the biggest potential, with transparent criteria to support that decision-making.

We’re not creating a private patient organisation, although may consider areas where we can enhance our existing provision for private patients and welcome fee-paying international patients from countries that cannot deliver the healthcare expertise that we can.

It also won’t be a ‘bank’ that will prop up services, but it could provide seed investments to nurture emerging ideas, and I hope that quite quickly it will draw in new non-NHS income that we can re-invest into the Trust.

Ultimately, this contributes in many complementary ways to enhancing the Health, Wealth and Wellbeing of our city. It is an exciting and important part of our work and I will keep you updated as we progress.


You will be aware that we have been caring for patients with Coronavirus in our Specialist Infectious Disease Unit. We are extremely well prepared for managing these types of infections – so this is very much business as usual for us here at Newcastle – but I would like to thank all the teams who have been closely involved. The Government is providing regular updates on Coronavirus – and you can find the latest information and advice here.


Following on from my last blog, our February campaign #LetsTalk is now live on our website. Working in the NHS can be challenging so it’s really important we look after ourselves and each other.

Our next Trust leadership congress will take place on Wednesday 4 March, from 3.30pm at St James Park where we will be joined by Amanda Pritchard, Chief Operating Officer, NHS England and Improvement, who will be giving us her national perspective and insights on the current issues, particularly for us as an ‘Anchor’ institution for the NHS in the North East.

A full agenda will be available shortly, and I would be very grateful if you could join us for this important strategic event. Please confirm you attendance to [email protected]

Stonewall Top 100 Employers

Our Board of Directors marked our entry into the Stonewall Top 100 employers list

I was incredibly proud to see Newcastle Hospitals recognised as one of Stonewall’s Top 100 Employers last week, with the highest ranking new entry in the health and social care sector.

I know how hard people have worked to focus on LGBT+ inclusion across the organisation, including the launch of the NHS Rainbow Badge initiative which over 5,000 members of staff now wear with pride, alongside their pledge to take action to support inclusion and visibility. To be placed at number 40 in the UK Workplace Equality Index is a massive achievement and one we should all celebrate. Building on this foundation, I’m also delighted that the Trust will host the first national NHS LGBT+ staff conference in July 2020 which will encourages the whole NHS to champion positive change.

Climate change

Last week NHS Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens announced further steps the NHS needs to take in 2020 to tackle climate change and collectively get to ‘net zero’ – becoming the world’s first major health service to do so.

He has established an NHS Net Zero Advisory Expert Panel, which I’m honoured to be part of for Newcastle Hospitals, and we have met for the first time to discuss the changes the NHS needs to make in its own activities, in its supply chain; and through wider partnerships to make a positive impact on sustainability and carbon use.

As you know Newcastle Hospitals was the first NHS organisation to declare a ‘Climate Emergency’ and by acknowledging our responsibilities to the population we now serve – and to future generations – I hope we can provide the impetus in embedding sustainable healthcare across the NHS as a whole.
Big Room Event

At the start of this year, I shared the news that 2020 is ‘International Year of the Nurse and Midwife’ and over the next 12 months there will be lots of opportunities to shine the spotlight on the fantastic work of this profession.

One of our biggest events will be held on 5 March – ‘the Big Room Event’ – where we are looking to engage with our nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals to develop a joint strategy for the future. As teams, you already work closely together and this is an excellent opportunity to pool together your expertise and wealth of skills and experience.

In true Newcastle style it’s bold and ambitious – we want 900 staff there! The event will be split into three sessions and be facilitated by Helen Bevan, Chief Transformation Officer, NHSiE and Bev Matthews, National Delivery Lead NHS Horizons. Further details can be found on the home page of the intranet.

News, Achievements and Events

Excellent maternity care – Our maternity services have once again been rated among the best in the country for the care provided to mums and babies in the Care Quality Commission’s national maternity survey. Newcastle Hospitals identified as performing ‘better than expected’, in three key areas – during labour and birth, staff caring for you and care in hospital after the birth – and it is a testament to the work of all our teams.

‘My daddy is a nurse’ – It was great to see Associate Director Nursing Peter Towns at the NHS book

Peter Towns, Associate Director of Nursing at the launch of ‘My Daddy is a Nurse in Birmingham

launch of ‘My Daddy is a Nurse’ which aims to challenge gender stereotypes about men in nursing. Peter is one of a number of ‘men in nursing’ ambassadors who has helped to shape and design this book for four to seven-year-olds and the launch marked the beginning of International Year of the Nurse and Midwife 2020.

Just another day – We’ve discovered a fantastic short promotional ‘day in the life of’ film, which was produced by Samaritan Film for the Royal Victoria Infirmary over 60 years ago, and it’s definitely worth a watch here enjoy the trip down memory lane.