What we do best

At the heart of all our services have always been our people. I know how much everyone wants to do their very best for patients, and it can be a challenge to recognise that when our work seems so relentlessly busy.

Taking the time to tell people about the positive impact that our teams are making – through our own services, through research and through partnerships – is very important and valuable and helps our patients to have confidence in the services we provide.

We’re a big team at Newcastle Hospitals and we work in our own professional areas – which can limit our ability to learn from one another. Yet sharing ideas and good practice is a crucial part of change and drives improvements in patient care, experience, and outcomes.

Our ‘Celebrating Excellence Awards’ held last week provided an opportunity for staff to reconnect – to find out more about some of the amazing work happening across the Trust and to stop for a moment and appreciate the part we all play.

I was very sorry to miss this event (which is always a high point in my year) – but I know from the feedback I’ve received, there was a huge sense of pride in the room for what teams and individuals have achieved.

In total we presented 15 awards and we’ve shared details about the category winners on our website as well as our full list of finalists.Picture of Asif Hasan stood on stage posing for a photo holding the award and certificate in front of star backdrop, with Chairman Professor Sir John Burn and Maurya Cushlow.

In honour of the 75th anniversary of the NHS, a special lifetime achievement award was presented to consultant paediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Mr Asif Hasan in what was a highly competitive category.

Anyone who knows Asif, (and you may have seen him in a recent episode of Geordie Hospital) will agree that he is a humble and unassuming man, who has dedicated his whole life to saving the lives of children and adults born with the most complex heart problems and defects.

Surgery that only a few years ago would have been deemed impossible is now a reality because of his skill, knowledge & expertise and throughout Asif’s long and exemplary career, he has saved the lives of hundreds of patients.

However what resonated in the multiple nominations he received was his compassion and time for others – not just for his patients but also their extended families and staff who described him as an outstanding mentor to so many new surgeons, theatre staff and nurses.

One of his colleagues simply said: “Having worked with Asif for many, many years. I can’t begin to explain what makes this man so special – he just is.”Picture of Audrey Tapang stood on stage posing for a photo holding the award and certificate in front of star backdrop, with comedian Shaparak Khorsandi looking at her, and Chairman Professor Sir John Burn and Maurya Cushlow.

We also had two special awards during the evening – the Chief Executive’s and the Chairman’s Awards. This year my award went to Audrey Tapang who joined the trust in 2015 after relocating from the Philippines to begin a nursing career in cardiothoracic intensive care.

Audrey is now our Senior Clinical Educator in International Recruitment and – with her small team – has supported hundreds of nurses who have made the life-changing decision to move overseas to Newcastle, taking them through the OSCE preparation process. She works tirelessly to ensure our new recruits have everything to get the best start they need and is a very deserved winner of this award.Picture of Pam Yanez stood on stage posing for a photo holding the award and certificate in front of star backdrop, with comedian Shaparak Khorsandi, Chairman Professor Sir John Burn and Maurya Cushlow.

The final award – the chairman’s award – was presented by Professor Sir John Burn to Pam Yanez. Many will know Pam in her current role as the Council of Governor’s lead governor, where she has made a significant impact in ensuring the governor voice is heard for the communities they represent, but she also dedicated 40 years of her career to Newcastle Hospitals.

Joining the NHS as a student nurse on the renal unit in 1974, she’s been a senior sister on the Freeman Hospital’s haemodialysis ward, was the Northern Region’s first transplant co-ordinator, has received an OBE for services to healthcare and – as the directorate manager for urology and renal services – was instrumental planning and developing the Renal Services Centre and the Institute of Transplantation.

Her final achievement was securing agreement to procure a satellite dialysis clinic to provide care closer to home for patients and through her work with the team, dialysis has become an option for all instead of a few and transplantation is an everyday occurrence instead of a news headline.

So to come full circle, I’d like to acknowledge all of our finalists and winners on the night – our staff, volunteers (human and canine) and charity supporters – and thank you for everything you do. The awards have, once more, showcased really excellent and innovative work happening right on our doorstep that is now being shared with others regionally and nationally. It’s what we do best.

Finally, can I say thank you to all of our sponsors including Newcastle Hospitals Charity and our reception sponsors Newcastle Health Innovation Partners who made the event possible.

Sexual misconduct in the UK surgical workforce

Last week, new Research, from the University of Exeter and University of Surrey, as part of their involvement with the Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery, was published on the extent of sexual misconduct within the UK surgical workforce in the last five years.

The Working Party on Sexual Misconduct in Surgery (WPSMS) has also published an independent yet associated report.

The research and report are an incredibly difficult read but do present clear evidence of why we must take more action to better understand and address this issue. Although these documents focus on the surgical workforce, we know that this behaviour affects other staff groups too.

As a trust we take this report extremely seriously and it reinforces the need for all of us to take a zero-tolerance approach to sexual misconduct, violence, harassment or abuse.

Our Chief People Officer, Christine Brereton and Medical Director, Andy Welch, have already commenced a task and finish group, which involves staff side, to understand and take action on this issue.

However, it is really important to say that if you are affected by sexual harassment of any type at work, please don’t suffer in silence. I know how hard it can be to speak up, especially if inappropriate behaviour has happened for some time and may seem to be ‘accepted’.

You can speak to your line manager, freedom to speak up guardian, union rep or you can use the confidential ‘Speak in Confidence’ system which can be found under the S – Speak Up We Are Listening – page of our intranet site, if you would like to take the first steps to reporting these issues.

Visit to our Patient Experience team

On 31 August, I was delighted to visit our patient experience team at their offices at the Freeman Hospital. We talked about the remarkable work they do in bridging the gap between patient concerns and healthcare improvement as well as their vital role in building relationships, facilitating change, and making sure patient voices are heard.

This small but dedicated team is one of the linchpins of our commitment to patient experience. They foster crucial connections with clinical boards, ensuring that patient feedback informs every aspect of our healthcare delivery and diligently listen to patients’ concerns, extracting insights that then inform our continuous improvement.

I heard directly from our patient experience coordinators about the hands-on work they do with patients to understand and resolve their questions and concerns. Their role has also expanded to take part in nursing audits and cleanliness assessments for example, so that they can feed views into proactive improvements.

Through the development of our new patient experience strategy, the team are moving away from focussing on experience questionnaires and towards much more proactive and developmental work – for example by including people in service reviews which may be looking at new models of care.

They have also focussed on supporting patients with more complex concerns through facilitating early local resolution meetings which have proven to be remarkably successful and demonstrate there is real commitment to change and to resolving issues.

Improving patient experience not just a process; it’s a deeply emotional journey. The team is driven by a desire to see improvements for others and to doing the right thing when things go wrong. As with many supportive teams, members are alert to each other’s emotional well being, working flexibly to provide the best possible service.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

The team also passionately advocates for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, recognising that diversity enhances our capacity to provide quality care and are committed to improvement work that extends beyond hospital walls.

Collaborating with organisations like Disability North to address carer concerns, and supporting the Deaf community through Deaflink are just some examples of their dedication to positive change.

Through a rigorous tender process, the team has managed our new partnership with Language Empire to improve the interpreting services we have available. This has required a significant training and engagement exercise, and the early feedback is very promising.

Thank you to every member of this team for their dedication, compassion, and tireless efforts ensure that patient voices are heard, concerns are addressed, and our services continually evolve to meet the needs of those we serve.

Organ Donation WeekPicture of North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll and the Trust's Chairman Professor Sir John Burn, and the cyclists with their bikes stood outside the Institute of Transplantation

This week is Organ Donation Week and it began with a visit from a group of cyclists who’d cycled 138 miles from Edinburgh to the Institute of Transplantation to raise awareness of living kidney donation.

They were met by the North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll and members of Tyneside Kidney Patients Association – all of whom are kidney transplant recipients – who received their team baton, symbolising the giving and receiving of a kidney. You can read more about their 500-mile ‘Transplant Tour’ here.

We also shared the story of patient Neil Bradshaw who has marked his 25th anniversary of receiving a double transplant – a pancreas and kidney – at the Freeman Hospital. Every year on the anniversary he privately lights a candle in church to remember the person who gave him the gift of life and Neil movingly spoke about his own journey.

I know other teams have been involved in events throughout the week – my thanks to you all for raising awareness about such an important subject.

Other NewsPicture of Dr Helen Leonard presenting at a conference with a large presentation slide in background.

On the international map – Consultant paediatrician (neurodisability) Dr Helen Leonard, who is the regional clinical lead for personalised care, was recently a keynote speaker at the International Society for Quality in Healthcare conference in Seoul.

The conference theme was around co-production and in a plenary session shared with Catherine Calderwood – the former Chief Medical Officer for Scotland – she spoke about ‘People not Patients’ and the importance of using listening to people’s experiences in planning and delivering healthcare, co-production and the barriers to it. Helen has subsequently been asked to join a World Health Organisation working group ‘Patient experiences of harm: lessons for the health care system’ which is great news and a fantastic recognition of the work she does.Picture of surgeons in green and blue scrubs in a surgical theatre, standing next to machines that perform robotic assisted surgery.

Pioneering treatment – Surgeons at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital have demonstrated the benefits of robotic-assisted surgery for knee replacement, including increased accuracy, shorter recovery and reduced pain after the operation.

In a study involving over 100 patients who required total knee replacement due to advanced arthritis, individuals were randomly allocated either a standard knee replacement or robotic-assisted surgery.

The trial was the first of its kind and found that robotic-assisted surgery can reduce pain and potentially speed up recovery time, in addition to decreasing the requirement for ongoing pain relief. The results highlight the potential for expanding the use of robotic-assisted surgery in knee replacement operations across the NHS.

Blood Cancer Awareness Month – Clinical trials have paved the way for some of today’s most effective cancer treatments and continue to play a vital role in the discovery and testing of new cancer therapies and can sometimes gift patients more time with loved ones. In support of September’s Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Katy Tait, who is a deputy research sister on ward 11 at the Freeman Hospital, talked about her role.