Northumbria Healthcare: an open letter from the chief executive

Northumbria Healthcare: in an open letter from chief executive, Sir James Mackey, he reflects on waiting lists, Covid-19 and more.

Chief executive: Good performance on waiting lists and staff morale levels in Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust
Chief executive: Good performance on waiting lists and staff morale levels in Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust

Waiting lists

One of the biggest issues facing the NHS at the moment is the large number of people waiting for treatment in the wake of the extensive disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

I am pleased to be able to say that the situation for patients in Northumberland and North Tyneside is better than many other places in the country and our performance against the national 18-week referral to treatment target is the best in England for non-specialist trusts. We have no patients who have been waiting more than two years for treatment and at this point we are working hard to clear the last few patients who have waited more than 12 months.

Working hard to reduce waiting times

However, while we may have a strong performance nationally, we are not where we want to be yet. We are working very hard to ensure we are doing everything we can to reduce waiting times, as we fully recognise how important it is to patients to be receiving as timely care as possible.

Recovering from Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has been with us now for more than two years and it has been a constantly changing picture over that time. We must accept that this disease is still with us and is continuing to have an impact. The level of vaccination in our communities means there are far fewer people becoming seriously ill and dying, but it continues to cause disruption to our services with both staff and patient illness leading to cancelled procedures and appointments.

That being said, our focus must be and is on moving beyond the pandemic and delivering the wide range of outstanding healthcare services that our communities expect. We are in the process of refreshing our plans for the future and our patients will remain at the heart of everything we do.

Last year, 96% of inpatients, 98% patients receiving day case care, and 99% of outpatients rated their experience as good, very good or excellent.

There are a number of new national plans for NHS organisations to respond to, but we are committed to going further, faster and not seeing national targets as the end point; constant improvement is our goal.

Innovation and investment

Innovation and investment have a key role to play in our plans going forward, with investment planned across our sites, from the new hospital at Berwick to the Health and Care Academy at the Northumbria site in Cramlington, from ward refurbishments at Wansbeck and North Tyneside to investments in new theatres and diagnostic equipment at a number of sites.

In the coming months, key themes will include the monitoring of capacity and ensuring patients can move through the system (flow), increased community focus, including innovations in social care, increased use of technology and data, which is focused on and for patients and staff, and continued development of programmes which support employment and the area’s economy.

Patient satisfaction

The recent news that overall public satisfaction with the NHS fell significantly in the last year to 36% is a challenge for all of us in the health service, but at Northumbria Healthcare, the ongoing hard work of our staff has ensured that patients are much happier with our services than that national picture suggests.

We are also committed to tackling health inequalities and working with partners to reduce the disparities between outcomes for different communities.

We continually monitor the experience of our patients because this feedback is so helpful in being able to maintain high levels of quality care and improve where necessary. Last year, 96% of inpatients, 98% patients receiving day case care, and 99% of outpatients rated their experience as good, very good or excellent.

Staff wellbeing

Our results in the latest NHS Staff Survey revealed a high level of support from our own people for the trust and what we do. Our staff morale was the highest of any NHS trust in England, which is even more welcome as we know just how hard everyone has worked during a relentless two years of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Staff experience is incredibly important to us and we constantly listen to what our staff are saying and feeling so that we can make improvements where necessary. We are focused on being a great place to work as we want to recruit and retain the best people in our bid to continually provide outstanding care for our communities.

There is a wide range of evidence that highlights how good staff and patient experience go hand in hand, which is why making sure our staff are happy and supported is so crucial. We know there is always room for improvement and we will continue to work with our teams to improve our offer to ensure we support staff wellbeing as best we can, so they in turn can provide the best care to our patients.

You can find out more about the work of the NHS in Northumbria here.