State-of-the-art care, closer to home

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of welcoming the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Sajid Javid, to the Trust to celebrate the opening of our new Northern Centre for Cancer Care, North Cumbria.

Having welcomed the oncology staff team from North Cumbria into the Trust in April, I’ve been able to visit the bright and airy new centre myself twice in the last fortnight and I was delighted to be able to host the Secretary of State for only his third visit to an NHS hospital since his appointment.

During his visit we spoke about the hard work that has contributed to delivering this new centre, the role of large specialist providers like Newcastle Hospitals and how important it is for trusts to work together collaboratively so that patients can benefit from the very best care and support. I very much hope that we can welcome him to our services in Newcastle as well in due course.

Our Cancer Centre in Cumbria is a remarkable achievement. Colleagues from both North Cumbria and Newcastle have worked tirelessly together for almost a decade to develop this state-of-the-art service and it’s the first of the government’s new hospital programme to be completed. The new building in Carlisle is a beacon of hope for the 2000 patients we expect to see there each year and means that many of them will no longer need to make daily trips to Newcastle for radiotherapy treatment. Alongside that, services at the Henderson Suite in Whitehaven will continue to provide a very valuable chemotherapy service for their local population and we will begin to modernise and enhance the unit later this year.

I’ve spoken to a number of patients during my visits and I was struck by how pleased many of them were to be cared for by our expert team. The new environment and the high standards of support made them feel valued and hopeful during a time which is inevitably frightening and disempowering. It was very humbling to hear some of their stories which remind us – if a reminder was needed – about how much our services and team are appreciated.

We can’t underestimate the positive impact that a high quality service and environment has on our patients, just one reason why it was so important that building our cancer centre continued unabated throughout the pandemic. It’s a real credit to everyone involved, both from the Trust teams and our construction partners and equipment suppliers that the quality and speed of the project has been maintained throughout such challenging times.

Improving access to research studies

Of course this development isn’t just about providing services closer to home. We’re also bringing the opportunity for patients to take part in life saving research studies and to benefit from innovative new treatments as quickly as possible. Newcastle Hospitals Charity – bolstered by charitable funds – transferred from the previous North Cumbria cancer services have been able to support the Centre with a grant to fund three dedicated research staff, opening up new opportunities for local patients and I’m incredibly excited about the possibilities and the benefits we can bring to local people. I want to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed.

Collaboration and integration

The cancer centre development is the most recent and visible example of the role that we play to underpin services across the region – as the ‘anchor’ of NHS services. Every day patients from across the North East and further afield benefit from our specialist services across all parts of our hospitals. We saw this very clearly during previous waves of the covid pandemic as we received and cared for large numbers of intensive care patients from across the UK. As one of the largest and most successful trusts in the UK, and as a member of the Shelford group of hospitals we take our responsibilities to drive up standards very seriously. It’s our duty to keep pushing the boundaries of science to provide the best clinical expertise for all of our patients.

We’ve seen over the last few weeks and months that the NHS has new leaders, including the new Secretary of State and also the welcome appointment of Amanda Pritchard as Chief Executive of the NHS. We have a strong and stable leadership team throughout our organisation in Newcastle, but we are all working in a context that is unfamiliar and perhaps unique. Our challenge is not just to return to the way we used to work before the pandemic, but to work smarter to make sure that we can be even more effective, challenging health inequalities and improving the health, wealth and wellbeing of our communities.

Today we have just around 45 inpatients with COVID-19 – a figure which has been fairly stable over the last couple of weeks – that’s about two wards of patients who need to be cared for in a very specific way. We need our clinical experts to help us understand how to manage the long tail of COVID-19 care, and the impact on both inpatient services and how to support those with long covid.

We have made some progress in the last fortnight to restart our elective programme. I know that there is a great deal of detailed work underway to bring patients in as soon as possible to all of our areas to make the most of the capacity we have. Alongside that though, we are still seeing relentless pressure on our emergency department which shows no signs of lifting. This is a different outlook for the NHS, and one which I’ve not previously seen in my 20 years as a chief executive. It requires us all to think differently and challenge ourselves to find new ways to solutions.

It’s vital that we quickly build back our capacity after this most recent wave of coronavirus so that we can make the kind of progress we all want to see in our elective services. I know that every directorate is working hard to plan and innovate in order to see as many patients as quickly as possible. That involves working with different partners locally, regionally and nationally. It’s those strong relationships and networks, along with the enthusiasm, innovation and expertise of all our staff which delivers the care we are all so proud of and will ensure that we develop those new approaches.

I’m very mindful as ever, of how hard people have worked over the last 18 months, and especially over the last few weeks as we have experienced pressure from the most recent covid wave and I’m inspired every day by what everyone achieves. Please don’t hesitate to ask for help from your managers, staff side representatives or colleagues if you need to and take advantage of the resources available. A list of all of the health and wellbeing resources is available here.

Clinical Research

The launch of our clinical research strategy was postponed due to our recent surge of Covid activity, and will now take place on 13 September, 1pm – 2pm.

I’m delighted to be opening this virtual event and joining a great line-up of other speakers as we share our ambitious vision for the future of research at Newcastle Hospitals.

There’ll also be the opportunity to hear from some of our research workforce, patients and partner organisations, as they share some internationally recognised successes to date and provide their reflections on what the strategy means for the future of research at Newcastle Hospitals and beyond. If you haven’t signed up to the event already, I would encourage you to do so by following this link.

A message to our Armed Forces

In light of the recent developments in Afghanistan, we would like to reach out to our Armed Forces staff to offer support during this extremely distressing time. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health or wellbeing, there are a number of avenues of support.

The Chaplaincy team are here for all members of the Armed Forces, who may need a listening ear.
Please do not hesitate to contact the on-call chaplain via switchboard on 0191 233 6161.

Below is a list of external support, which may help:

Chief Midwifery awards

Earlier this week we were visited by Deputy Chief Midwifery officers Sascha Wells-Munro and Jess Read who visited to present midwives Diane Buggy and Sonja Kelly with prestigious Chief Midwifery Officer Awards.

I was delighted to be able to attend the award ceremony to hear about their inspirational work.

Jane Anderson, Associate Director of Midwifery, Sonja Kelly and Sascha Wells-Munro, Deputy Chief Midwifery Officer for England

Diane was awarded Gold Award for her work supporting women in the west end of Newcastle.

Sonja , who has been a midwife at the RVI since 2014, was presented with a Silver Award recognising her contribution to patients and the profession through her work with UK-Med.



We value diversity

The staff networks have three key events taking place in September:

  • Suicide awareness day (Friday 10 September) – This will be an opportunity to find out more about suicide prevention and awareness training opportunities. Information relating to concerns and worries that staff may have and the support that is available in the Trust will be shared with a dedicated Schwartz to take place on Monday 18 October.
  • Bi Visibility Day (Thursday 23 September) – Staff are invited to attend a flag-raising ceremony 9am at the Freeman Hospital, with Vicky McFarlane-Reid, director of enterprise & business development and at the RVI at 3pm with Martin Wilson, chief operating officer.
  • National Inclusion week (WC Monday 27 September) – On Thursday 30 September, 12-2pm, an ‘ask me anything’ session will be held, where a panel representing a range of backgrounds will be happy to answer questions about subjects including faith, disability, caring, long covid, sexuality and ethnicity, in a safe environment.