Recovery focus for Northumbria Healthcare

Patients in Northumberland and North Tyneside can be confident about accessing local healthcare services despite the impact of Covid-19.

Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.
Sir James Mackey, chief executive of Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

That’s the message from Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust because as well as being one of the best performing trusts in the country since the start of the pandemic, it is now part of a new national scheme to help support initiatives that speed up access to treatment even further.

All such health organisations have had to postpone some non-urgent care since the second half of March 2020 given the pressure on staff, beds and equipment during what has been an unprecedented time for the NHS.

However, Northumbria Healthcare has carried out more than 14,500 procedures or operations during the pandemic and senior officials implemented a focus on innovation, day case surgery and making the best use of facilities across Northumberland and North Tyneside to help keep waiting lists and times as short as possible.

Hospitals in the region will now receive a share of £160million in plans announced by NHS England and across Northumbria, the trust is putting on extra surgical sessions and maximising the working week to see as many patients as possible.

Chief executive Sir James Mackey said: “To help keep things moving, we’ve really focused on day case surgery and we’re probably doing around three times as many of these short, low length of stay operations as other areas.

“We have been able to do a large proportion of our elective activity compared to last year while urgent cancer operations, trauma surgery and orthopaedic surgery have never stopped.

“To help get even more patients through the system, we’re now looking to expand our operating theatre footprint even further – using new equipment, increasing staffing by developing new apprenticeships, introducing new training posts and investing millions of pounds in new facilities.”

During the pandemic, the emergency hospital in Cramlington was designated as the overall Covid hub and geared up to take lots of extra patients, which meant that the trust’s other hospital sites could keep elective and non-urgent operations going for as long as possible.

This enabled services to patients to continue safely with a range of safeguards in place, so that procedures such as endoscopy only stopped for two weeks during the lockdown.

Eliot Sykes, surgical business unit director at Northumbria Healthcare, said: “We welcome this funding and being chosen as an accelerator site, as it will build on the incredible work that the team has achieved over the last year and enable us to further reduce the waiting times for our patients quicker.

“For example, our orthopaedics team, which is the fourth largest in the country, has been able to continue doing elective orthopaedic surgery over the last year – a remarkable achievement at such a difficult time.

“Our orthopaedic activity has been restored to historical levels and has been running throughout the second wave.”

Other measures have included blood tests that would have been previously been carried out by GPs or nurses done instead by pop-up phlebotomy clinics in the community, reducing the pressure on local surgeries, a strict testing and pre-operative self-isolation regime so elective patients could keep coming in to have their operations during lockdown and virtual appointments where appropriate.