Taking a break

I’m currently taking a few days annual leave. I try to book my holidays into my diary as early as I can as I find if I don’t do this, the diary takes over and the holidays and rest periods don’t happen. For the last few years I’ve blocked out the time, spread over the year, to make sure I do take a break.

Like many of you, I really enjoy my job; but I also know when I am ready for a break, feeling jaded and in need of a refresh. I always return from leave feeling re-energised and with an altered perspective on things. Often issues which loomed large in my mind before a holiday seem in clearer perspective with a little distance. I find that new and creative ideas present themselves when I’m away from the office.

Regular breaks are vitally important for our physical and mental wellbeing. I know I will feel much better and brighter for a few days walking the fells in the Lake District – aided by an often transient mobile phone signal.

But of course life goes on and the last few weeks have been full of their usual busy-ness.
On 8 May, I joined colleagues at Lancaster University where I am Executive in Residence, to share my thoughts on the leadership actions required to ensure we have a sustainable NHS for the generations to come.

This was a good opportunity to debate with NHS, university and business sector colleagues and think about the role we each play in supporting and sustaining our NHS. The themes throughout my presentation included; system and partnership working, prevention and population health, the importance of digital and Artificial Intelligence in healthcare and looking after our most precious resource – our workforce – and the connection between Health, Wealth and Wellbeing. As always it is good to share thinking with others and I came away with lots of food for thought.

Last week, the executive team and I spent time with our CCG commissioning colleagues to discuss our partnership working for the patients and people we serve. Right now we are going through a major transition in the way we work together across the provider / commissioner relationship. Previously these functions were managed and led separately and I welcome the shift in thinking which means we now work much more closely together to design and support our services and shared priorities.

This kind of change doesn’t happen overnight. As leaders we have to be very clear about how we work together and form new and productive relationships. Alongside that, our whole organisations also need to adjust to the change – moving from a transactional, contractually driven relationship to one where we must work out priorities and the way services will be provided together.

We need to include our patients’ views and experiences in that mix as well. I welcome this change and value the time commissioner colleagues are investing to make sure we get this right.
It’s also important that we equip the next generation of senior leaders to gain the skills and insight they need to thrive in the new climate of collaboration and integration that we seek to foster. In Newcastle, we are working together with partners in the City Council, NHS and community and voluntary sector to support our leaders through the system leadership programme and I was very pleased to spend some time with the first cohort of attendees on this ‘sold out’ course on 14 May. It’s so important that we develop a shared understanding of our role in the City as we strive to ensure that we maximise Health, Wealth and Wellbeing.


It’s been great to see the going home checklists appearing around the Trust which I highlighted in my last blog. I hope they are helpful in reminding us all to take a moment to be mindful about our day at work and to focus on our precious time at home with friends and family.

We’ve also become the first Trust in the country to pledge our support to the national Fight Fatigue Campaign – a joint initiative of the Association of Anaesthetists, the Royal College of Anaesthetists and the Faculty of Intensive Care Medicine.

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the impact of fatigue and shift work on our NHS workforce and

I am delighted to be the first CEO to officially back such an important issue.

Fatigue can have a huge impact on the health and wellbeing of our all staff, both physically and mentally, and shouldn’t be accepted as simply being part of working in the health service.

As NHS employers, we have a responsibility – and duty – to look after all of our workforce to help them provide the best, and safest, care they can for our patients and as part of Flourish we are already looking at how we can mitigate the risks associated with tiredness, particularly for our staff working night shifts.

As you can imagine, there is a huge effort behind the scenes to plan our upcoming celebrating excellence awards at the end of June. The standard of entries for the awards was remarkable and it made me very proud to be reminded of such amazing work and such compassionate care. All of the shortlisted teams and individuals are listed at the end of this message. Well done to everyone shortlisted, I’m really looking forward to seeing you on the night and equally well done to everyone who was nominated.

Visit with Lord Prior

Trust Chairman, Professor Sir John Burn, with the Chair of NHSE Lord Prior and some of our staff who have been promoting Kangaroo care

We welcomed the Chair of NHS England, Lord Prior, to our organisation last week as part of his visit to the North East; where he spent time with teams including the Emergency Department and maternity (including the neonatal unit) at the RVI, before moving on to see cardiology and haematology/cancer services at the Freeman.

Throughout the day we had been celebrating Kangaroo care – also known as skin-to-skin contact – which is a lovely way for parents to spend time with their baby and Lord Prior got to see first-hand some of the excellent work we’ve been doing to highlight the importance of this bonding technique.


I’m delighted our ABC (Appointment Booking Centre) is opening next week at Regent Point

Outpatients is a key service area where we can make positive changes, so I’m delighted our ABC (Appointment Booking Centre) is opening next week with the first team – main outpatients at the RVI – starting work in their new home from Tuesday (28 May).

The centre – based at Regent Point – will house a number of dedicated booking teams who will be on hand to respond to the needs of our patients who are referred to the Trust from a variety of sources.

Currently our outpatient teams are based in different locations across the Freeman and RVI sites but under this new initiative, which covers the majority of clinical specialties, patients will receive the same level of service, irrespective of which clinical area they are referred to for treatment.

It also benefits our staff as they’ll be working together as one team for the first time, providing them with more support and opportunities to gain expertise in new areas. Over the coming weeks, there will be a series of phased moves into the ABC and I’d like to thank all the teams involved in this key programme of work.

Awards and achievements

I’m always humbled by our continued commitment and drive to make a real difference to our patients. Here are some of our latest awards and achievements:

  • Senior sister in gastroenterology Pauline Morgan (directorate of medicine) and Sarah Barker, a staff nurse in the intensive care unit (peri-operative and critical care), have both received Cavell Star Awards in recognition of the outstanding work they do. Their nominations from Associate Director of Nursing, Lisa Guthrie and Lesley Scott (Sarah’s matron) really epitomised what great nursing is – compassionate, caring and inspirational.
  • Last week the Chairman, Professor Sir John Burn, opened the latest addition to our suite of sophisticated MRI Scanners – the MAGNETOM Sola – which features artificial intelligence to streamline scanning processes. This is a major step change in the way our radiographers can scan patients and keeps us at the forefront of being leading-edge healthcare providers.
  • The Neuroendocrine team have been successful in their bid for centre of Excellence status at Newcastle Hospitals. This is fantastic news and I look forward to seeing our patients benefit from the great work the team is doing.

    Paediatric immunologist Professor Andrew Cant soon retires from clinical duties after nearly 30 years at the Great North Children’s Hospital which he set up as one of two national referral centres for children with severe immunological disorders.
  • I’d like to wish Professor Andrew Cant a long and happy retirement from clinical practice after a very successful career as a Consultant in Paediatric Immunology and Infectious Diseases. Over three decades, his work has really put Newcastle on the map and helped to transform the lives of patients with serious immune conditions, as well as improving day-to-day care for children undergoing bone marrow transplants.
  • We have been shortlisted in two categories of the Employee Benefits Awards which take place on 7 June – our Benefits Everyone Team for Best Voluntary Benefits and Dani Colvin Laws as ‘Rising Star 2019’. Good luck! The Trust has also been shortlisted for Excellence in Supporting Armed Forces Talent at the CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development) North East Awards which take place on 20 June.
  • As part of a new three-year partnership with national charity MediCinema, The National Youth Film Academy, which is based in Gateshead, have made a £28,000 donation to their nearest Medicinema, which is the RVI.

This is a fantastic amount of money which I am sure will benefit many of our patients.

Finally, here are the shortlisted candidates in our Celebrating Excellence Awards:

Innovation & Research

  • Critical Care Research Team (Team 10)
  • Community Paediatric Occupational Therapy Service
  • Robynne Cranston, Senior Dietitian
  • Fetal Medicine Department
  • Christine Mackerness, Senior Sister PICU
  • Microbiology Research Team

Quality Improvement and Sustainability

  • Medicine Directorate – Inpatient Wards (Freeman)
  • New Croft Sexual Health Services
  • Paediatric Asthma Team
  • Peri-Op Diabetes Working Group
  • Lynda Pittilla, Lead nurse for NECTAR


  • Zoe Collins, Sister Ward 36 – NCCC
  • CRN NENC Wellbeing
  • Rachael Hudson, Clinical Nurse Educator – Renal Services
  • NUTH Green Gym
  • Odeth Richardson, Head of Service – Occupational Therapy

Behind the Scenes Unsung Hero

  • Lorna Dafter, Rehabilitation Assistant
  • Sean Dodds, IT Development Manager
  • Kathy Gillespie, Trust Antimicrobial Pharmacist
  • Catherine Horne, Principle Pharmacist, Medicines Information
  • Andy McDonald, Elective Admissions Co-ordinator, Musculoskeletal Services
  • Odeth Richardson, Head of Service – Occupational Therapy

Partnership Working

  • Emergency Department Interface Team (EDIT)
  • Paediatric Rheumatology Nurse Specialist Team and colleagues in Northumbria & Newcastle University
  • Pharmacy Integrated Hub
  • Specialist Care Home Support Team
  • 0 to 19 Service (school health), Blue Sky Trust, Children North East, Keith Wood PHSE Lead and Mark Ellerby-Hedley Newcroft House

Clinical Team of the Year

  • Community Response and Rehab Team (CRRT)
  • Emergency Department
  • Neuroendocrine Tumour Team (NET)
  • Palliative Care Team
  • Ward 44 – RVI (Winter Pressures Team)

Patient Safety (this year dedicated to infection control)

  • Clinical Educators
  • Medicine Directorate
  • Louise Ollett – Clinical Educator Children and Young People’s Oncology
  • Renal Team
  • Spinal Surgery, MSK & Neurosurgery

Volunteer of the Year

  • Roger Bishop, NCCC Volunteer
  • Diane Buggy, Community Midwife
  • Daft as a Brush
  • Northumbria Blood Bikes
  • Scilla Thompson, WVS Volunteer
  • Alison Winship, Theatre Escort

Clinician of the Year

  • Arul Immanuel, Consultant Upper GI and Laparoscopic Surgeon
  • Joanna Lawson, Associate Specialist, Falls & Syncope Service
  • Sean Marshall-Kellie, Clinical Nurse Specialist
  • Reuben Saharia, Consultant in Emergency Medicine and Head of Department
  • Susan Tweedie, Consultant Obstetrician and Lindsey Simmonds, Midwife

Fundraiser of the year

  • Betty Brierley & Linda Orton
  • Ivan Hollingsworth
  • Rehab Ramblers
  • Carl Sanderson
  • Team Olly

Behind the Scenes Team of the Year

  • Chaplaincy Team
  • Main Outpatients Department
  • Microbiology on-call Team
  • Newcastle Specials
  • Overseas Visitors Service
  • Radiotherapy Team (Tomotherapy upgrade)