Together we’re stronger

Our NHS is the UK’s iconic institution and I’ve always been very proud to work as part of this wonderful organisation which is so much bigger and better than the sum of its individual parts.

This was brought home to me when I attended the first session of the NHS Assembly in London on 25 April. I was delighted to be appointed to the Assembly so that I can make sure that voices from the Trust – and indeed the North east – are heard at the heart of the evolving future of the NHS.

What I realised as I met my fellow assembly members, was that it was just as important for me to bring my whole self and my whole experience into the room – my experience as a wife and as a daughter for example, as well as my experience as a leader.

The NHS Assembly aims to steer and influence the NHS Long Term Plan (LTP) and ensure that it is able to serve the nation – as it is now and for the future. That is a huge task but fortunately the assembly is made up of a truly amazing group of people and I am confident that we will have a positive influence on the LTP.

As I mingled with colleagues from the community and voluntary sector and people with lived experience of all types of services, as well as NHS leaders, it struck me that it’s still rare to be part of such a diverse group of people. We can and must keep challenging ourselves to create opportunities to listen and learn with people who experience the world differently, and challenge our assumptions.

Newcastle Hospitals has a really positive approach to diversity, and I know that brings benefits to the

Thank you to all who took the time to attend and all of the staff from all the organisations represented

care we provide. It made me very proud to see the BAME recruitment event we held in the Trust on Saturday 27 April when over 400 people from a whole range of different cultural backgrounds joined us to learn about careers in the NHS. It was wonderful so many men and women – and their children – took the time to visit.

The event was supported by our fellow local NHS Trusts, including the ambulance service and mental health services as well as other hospital trusts, and the success of the event was testament to this partnership working.

I heard the story of one man who attended the event with his young daughter, which brought home to me the importance of diversity and inclusion. He said that he had worked around the world, and was highly trained, but he had given up on working in the NHS because his many applications had been unsuccessful. He hadn’t even got interviews. Having spoken to staff at the event, he wanted to let us know that he now had hope. With emotion in his voice, he described how people had been so kind to him during the morning, giving him their contact details and encouraging him to get in touch with them if he wanted help to apply for future posts. He was so thankful for the opportunity to think about his career and take the next step forward.

Sometimes, more diverse communities are described by the NHS as being ‘hard to reach’, but I think the diversity of the NHS Assembly, and the success of our targeted careers event, show that it’s not hard if you make time to reach out.

This week I also met with representatives of the Tyne and Wear Citizens Assembly who have been working on listening to the voices of people who are experts by experience because of issues affecting their mental health. The power of these voices shone through our discussion, and made me reflect on the small, but significant changes, that we can make within our own services. We have committed to work in a number of areas to enhance the experience of local people with mental health needs and we need to ensure that we carry on listening to these voices.

Working in the NHS gives us all many opportunities to change people’s lives – sometimes that is by treating their illness, sometimes it’s by supporting their career, helping them to have a voice, and sometimes it’s just by listening. What will you do to change someone’s life this week?

Flourish – #MindfulMay

Thanks to Suzanne Leslie, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioner, Dr Anna Chaddock, Clinical Psychologist & Alex Fradera, Asstistant Psychologist who delivered some mindfulness taster sessions last week

I’ve had a number of requests for a ‘going home checklist’ from people who have seen this lovely idea on

Twitter. These are now available as part of our focus on mindfulness this month – you can download one from our flourish website. There are also lots of other mindfulness resources and links for you to try. Thank you to everyone who attended the mindfulness sessions last week and to the health psychology and occupational health teams who
arranged them.

Next week, further sessions and events are planned as we celebrate the eighth Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Week – details of these can be found InBrief.

Preparations continue for our staff Excellence Awards in June. The judges have had an incredibly difficult job to narrow down the entries into a shortlist and we will be announcing those shortlisted entries over the next week.

Out and About

Fabulous to meet the cardiothoracic teams with Chief Operating Officer Martin Wilson

It was great to join the Cardiothoracic team for their directorate meeting on 30 April along with Chief Operating Officer, Martin Wilson. We had a lively and open question and answer session. It was a vibrant session with contributions from lots of different disciplines, and some great ideas generated.

Thanks also to our neurosurgeons Alistair Jenkins, John Crossman, Chris Cowie, Damian Holliman, Mohammed Hussain and Prokopios Panaretos who met with Medical Director Andy Welch and I on 1 May. I welcomed the candid and open way we discussed both challenges and opportunities they face in delivering services here and further afield. As I’ve said before, meeting staff is one of the real joys of my job which I always look forward to. I never fail to learn from your experience.

On 2 May I was delighted to join colleagues from Newcastle City Council and Newcastle University and many colleagues from the local business sector. The event was organised by Newcastle Gateshead Initiative around the theme of ageing and the
longevity economy.

Great to join business and civic leaders to discuss opportunities to further our ambition & opportunities for our ageing society

As leaders in the Newcastle city region we are focused on the investment (in every sense of the word) we need to make to support the vastly growing numbers of people who are living much longer in our society. This session drew upon our delegation to Boston in December last year where we met Professor Joe Coughlin, Director of MIT AgeLab and a world renowned leader in this field who has a close link to Newcastle. Joe and colleagues in health and science are developing work locally to look at how we create the conditions for people to live healthily and independently into the later part of life.

It was great to chair a lively panel discussion with colleagues. At the end of the session the majority of the business leaders in the audience said they would think about investment in this market. In turn this will hopefully mean more investment locally, more jobs creation and innovative solutions to support people living longer AND living well!

Awards and Achievements

Huge congratulations and thank you to all of the following individuals and teams for making a difference to our patients:

Sister Lisa Price who works in paediatric oncology has been named a finalist in this year’s RCNi Awards, in the ‘Excellence in Cancer Research’ category, in recognition of her pioneering approach to establishing the Great North Children’s Hospital as a leading international research centre for childhood cancers.

The Diabetes and Perioperative teams have been shortlisted for the ‘Perioperative and Surgical Care’ award in the HSJ’s Patient Safety Awards for their work in making surgery safer for patients with diabetes.

The stroke research team at the RVI are leading the way in an international study which helps stroke patients regain hand movement and strength. The team are currently the top recruiting site in the UK and have seen promising results from patients enrolled on the study.

Drs Michael Wright and Marta Bertoli, consultants specialising in inherited musculoskeletal conditions at the Trust, are working alongside Mike Briggs , a professor of skeletal genetics at Newcastle University’s Institute of Genetic Medicine and the Clinical Trials Unit of Newcastle University, to spearhead a multi-national study which aims to develop a new treatment for rare bone disease known as MCDS or metaphyseal chondrodysplasia type Schmid.

Gill Laing, Emma Carroll, Yolande Causebrook and Alix Bungay with the special edition Royal teddy bears

Finally, babies born at the Royal Victoria Infirmary on the same day as the latest royal baby, Archie Harrison Mountbatten-Windsor, were given Royal teddy bears, complete with a commemorative t-shirt and special birth certificate, from Build-A-Bear Workshops to mark the special occasion.