The next chapter
This has been another week where we have been looking to the future whilst also shoring up our
resources to strengthen our response to the current pandemic. On Tuesday, I was delighted to host the official opening of the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East alongside our Chairman, Professor Sir
John Burn and Martin Wilson, who has been the executive lead for the project.
It’s around a month ago that we were asked to set up this facility to provide extra surge capacity
on behalf of the whole region. From the moment we were asked to build this hospital, the sense of
energy, determination and pride has been palpable.
It took over 80,000 hours of hard physical work to construct, and just as many hours of clinical and
operational thought to deliver a temporary hospital which is ready to support the North East when
it is needed.
This was a new and unexpected challenge, and it has taken an unprecedented team effort to achieve.
I’m grateful to – and proud of – everyone who has contributed to this project, and also to our partners at Sunderland Council, other NHS organisations and in the private sector and armed forces. Fifty members of Team Nightingale attended the event in person, and I’m delighted to say that almost 500
joined the live event virtually, and over 10,000 have already clicked through to watch the recording which can be found here or you can see highlights on the Nightingale Hospital Twitter account @nightingaleNE.
The recording includes all of our special guests including Sir Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of the NHS, the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, HRH The Countess of Wessex and of course Ant and Dec. There is also a lovely tribute to NHS staff from some of our local celebrities.
The Nightingale Hospital is now on standby, ready to be made operational should it be required.
Alongside that, I know that every team in the Trust is focussing on our next steps to reset the NHS
to address the long-term challenges that COVID-19 presents. We know that building back up to
provide the full range of services will be a much bigger task than when we limited our activities a
few short weeks ago.
It’s something which needs to be carefully co-ordinated and managed so that we get it right. We have a unique opportunity to consolidate the recent developments we’ve made – particularly in relation to digitally enabled healthcare – and also pivot our focus to ensure that we make the biggest positive impact on the health, wealth and wellbeing of our communities.
The North East has been the area of the UK most affected by COVID-19 and that’s unsurprising
when we consider the long-standing and well known health inequalities that our patients face. If
we can work in a way which improves health outcomes for the city we will be able to say we have
done a good job.
On a personal level, I am committed to ensuring that we take this opportunity to leap ahead with
our Flourish approach and really make changes that ensure people are well supported and able
to fulfil their potential at work for the long term. I know that many people will have been deeply
affected by events during this pandemic. The rules around social distancing and staying home
mean that many of us have missed important moments with our families that we will never get
back. We’ve seen the impact that it has had on our children and elderly relatives. Some of us will
have experienced difficult and perhaps even traumatic events as we care for patients. We should
all allow ourselves some time to reflect and recover.
As I said in my last message, I’m absolutely committed to listening to and engaging with staff.
Next week, I’m starting the first in a series of informal meetings with small groups of staff to hear
their views directly about how things feel and how we can move forward positively. I’m looking
forward to meeting with a small group from midwifery services to hear how they have adapted to
supporting women during the pandemic.
Yesterday I held a virtual meeting with members of the staff BAME network, along with the medical
director so that we could listen to the concerns of this staff group, which has been particularly
impacted by the effects of the coronavirus. I’m grateful for the time and expertise that all of these
staff have shared with me and I look forward to meeting with many more of you as we think about
how we can ensure that everyone is able to flourish on the frontline.
If you have views or thoughts that you would like to share with me, please email
I wanted to mention two groups of people who have been doing a particularly important job
recently. Firstly the catering team and their volunteers who have provided almost 35,000 packed
lunches each week for staff at the RVI, Freeman, Regent Point and in the community, and also
our procurement team who have now provided well over 1 million items of PPE. Thank you to
everyone involved for this achievement.
International Day of the Midwife
This week we also marked the International Day of the Midwife with many families sharing their personal stories of the difference that midwives have made to them. Over 6000 babies are born each year at the RVI and throughout the pandemic the team have continued to deliver outstanding, personalise care despite these unusual circumstances.
Our midwives have a unique and privileged role supporting women through an emotional and life changing experience and they are an important and valued part of our workforce. Thank you for the special role you play.
I was pleased to hear the positive feedback from out first virtual Schwartz Round ‘The Calm
Before the Storm’ which was held recently via Starleaf, and was repeated this week to enable
more members of staff to take part. Look out for further details of the next Schwartz Round in May
‘Small Acts of Kindness’ which will be facilitated by Jon Smith.
A film describing the work of researchers working in our trust has been recognised with a People’s
Choice Award at this year’s Charity Film Awards. The team worked with families affected by a rare
kidney disease called Atypical Haemolytic Uraemic Syndrome (aHUS) and using genetic analysis
discovered that the condition was caused by a fault in the genes responsible for the complement
system, part of the body’s immune response.
The film documents how this research ultimately led to the first treatment being made available
for patients suffering from aHUS and the establishment of the National aHUS Service within
Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Trust.
It can be viewed here