We are the NHS

I’ve reflected several times before in my blog on the vital importance of caring for our people at Newcastle Hospitals throughout everything that we do, and how that need has been brought into even more acute focus through the pandemic.

Creating the environment in which everyone can flourish is a core part of our approach in Newcastle and our Flourish@NewcastleHospitals program will continue to provide the framework within which we support everyone in the team.

So I was pleased to read the NHS People Plan recently which has been published in the context of the scale and pace of change driven by the NHS response to COVID-19.

It includes specific commitments around

  • Looking after our people – with quality health and wellbeing support for everyone
  • Belonging in the NHS – with a particular focus on tackling the discrimination that some staff face
  • New ways of working and delivering care – making effective use of the full range of our people’s skills and experience
  • Growing for the future – how we recruit and keep our people, and welcome back colleagues who want to return

You may have seen some public commentary about a drafting error in the original version of the plan which unhelpfully linked the experience of LGBTQ people with people experiencing long-term conditions.  I’m pleased to say that this was quickly corrected, but nevertheless I was shocked by that unfortunate error.  It was a stark reminder of how much more we need to do to reach our ambition that everyone should have an equal experience when they work for the NHS.  We have a long way to go and I am in no doubt about the efforts that we need to make here in Newcastle, despite the huge progress we have made.  I’m not in any doubt that there is much more to do.

I am very conscious of the role that I play personally.  Those of us who have experienced inequality and have reached positions of influence in the NHS have a dual responsibility – we need to call out discrimination when we see it in the wider NHS and we also need to do everything that we can to set the highest standards in our own organisations.  Each of us, as leaders and as colleagues, can and must play our part.

It’s also never been more important that we focus holistically on the health and wellbeing of all of our staff – another area that I am passionate about.  As we move into the autumn, we will be refreshing our health and wellbeing offer to try to encourage and support even more members of the team to take positive action to improve their health.  I have heard consistently from staff in my weekly check-ins that staff are continuing to feel the burden of the response we needed to give in the height of the pandemic.  It has taken its toll mentally and physically.  It’s been heartening to hear that what has made the biggest positive difference is the immediate team that people work in.  The stories of camaraderie and support that have been shared have been vital to making the last few months bearable for so many.  Its also been interesting to keep hearing about the changes that we have struggled to make over recent years which were unblocked due to the pandemic – flexible working being a good example.  It’s important that we don’t lose that spirit of innovation and ability to embrace change more easily as we return to our regular routines.  We need to make sure that managers at all levels understand that they are empowered to do ‘the right thing’ for their teams to thrive and flourish.

We, all of us, really are the NHS.  I’m optimistic that the People Plan can help to move every part of our NHS in the right direction.  As we establish our trust’s response to it, I want to involve as many people as possible with different experiences, so that we really can understand what will make that crucial difference.

Check-ins with the team

I’ve continued my regular check-ins with the teams from across the trust to talk openly about their experience of the covid pandemic, and how they are tackling the NHS reset process.

The team from the Great North Children’s Hospital gave me a different perspective of the last few months, and focussed on the experience of their patients and families.  PPE was a particularly different and difficult thing for sick children to come to terms with and the team worked very hard to help them to understand this ‘new normal’.  They told me about the fantastic partnership working across the region that has been strengthened by the shared experience of COVID-19, and some issues that had been in discussion for a long time were quickly resolved because of the changing circumstances.  This is a great example of a highly specialised service which has its feet firmly planted in our local communities, and this provides particular challenges when working in a virtual environment.  The team was very conscious of the risks of the pendulum swinging too far, and the importance of meeting children and their families in person.

I met with our integrated laboratory medicine team earlier this week, who have been a mission critical part of our covid response in the region since mid-January.  The pandemic has shone a light on the importance of all of our laboratory staff and scientists as a profession which is central to patient care.  This team has shown exceptional flexibility, with the testing team moving quickly to seven day, and then 24 hour working.  Across all of the different areas of the directorate, there has been a tremendous response to the changing situations and huge innovation made possible by the extensive expertise of the team.

My Chief Exec check-ins are a highlight of my week, and I look forward to meeting many more teams over the coming weeks.

Take part in the virtual Great North Run and fundraise for Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity

I’m sorry to see that the GNR couldn’t take place this year, especially as this would have been the 40th anniversary year.  It was a huge pleasure to take part last year and the sense of achievement as I crossed the finish line was worth all of the pain through the last few miles!  It was a great way to raise money for our Great North Children’s Hospital charity.

This year on Sunday 13 September, the GNR have organised an official 13.1 mile virtual race, as close an experience as possible to the real event so that you’ll be inspired to lace up your trainers and complete this half marathon.

The Official Virtual Great North Run is free to enter, regardless of whether you had a place in this year’s Great North Run.

If you would like to take part, why not support Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity as your charity of choice and encourage friends and family to sponsor you to run or walk through the event.

To find out more visit the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Charity website or contact the charity team on [email protected]

Awards and Achievements

Congratulations to the first winners of our newly launched ‘People at our Heart’ awards through
which we recognise and celebrate the outstanding efforts of those amongst our people who ‘make
us proud.

  • Sue Bentley – a senior sister on Ward 7 Freeman Hospital was nominated by the family of a
    patient for going above and beyond. They said: “Sue’s level of care, compassion and commitment to each patient, and their loved ones, is a credit to the nursing profession.”
  • Catherine Burn, a staff nurse on Ward 9 Freeman Hospital was also nominated for the exceptional care she provided for a patient and his wife, during his final days before dying. The nomination said: “The care and compassion she showed is second to none and for that we are grateful.”
  • The team on Ward 48 were nominated for maintaining exceptional standards of care. “As a patient with complex physical and psychological needs, I have never before received such an excellent standard of care as I have from the staff on this ward, particularly the ward sisters.”