It’s 70 years of NHS and counting, with revamp and young volunteers

Alnwick Dance Academy which entertained guests at the tea dance at Alnwick Infirmary to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS
Alnwick Dance Academy which entertained guests at the tea dance at Alnwick Infirmary to celebrate the 70th birthday of the NHS

Welcome to this month’s On The Ward column all about developments at Alnwick Infirmary and in Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust.

I’m going to begin this time by looking back at celebrations to mark a special birthday for the NHS, then update you on the revamp of our day room on the ward.

Brenda Longstaff (right), head of arts and patient environment programme at Northumbria Healthcare, presents Michelle Mole, acting ward manager at Alnwick Infirmary, with a picture for the refurbished day room

Brenda Longstaff (right), head of arts and patient environment programme at Northumbria Healthcare, presents Michelle Mole, acting ward manager at Alnwick Infirmary, with a picture for the refurbished day room

I’ll also introduce you to our new public governors for the area, and mention an exciting initiative in youth volunteering being launched in Alnwick today (Thursday).

On July 5, the NHS celebrated its 70th anniversary and our trust, like those across the country, marked this occasion in a variety of ways.

The aim was to pay tribute to staff and patients who have contributed to the health service since its inception in 1948.

Our Bright charity arranged for patients on the ward here in Alnwick, and in hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside, to have some birthday cake.

And our staff created a party atmosphere by putting up bunting and balloons and giving out flags.

Our staff wore blue on the day, and we produced special commemorative pin badges for them to wear to show their support.

We held seven 1940s-themed tea dances across the trust, again organised by our Bright charity.

These tea dances were a huge success and were greatly enjoyed by all, particularly by our patients who benefitted from being part of our celebrations and from spending time away from the ward environment.

I would like to say a big thank you to all of the local dance groups that performed for the event, and particularly to Alnwick Dance Academy, which entertained guests at the dance at Alnwick Infirmary.

The groups all practised routines for many hours to put on these memorable performances, and all of the dancers – some as young as two years old – were truly excellent and put on a great show.

Holding events like these makes such a difference to our patients and we’re delighted to have been able to incorporate them into our celebrations to mark this special milestone.

Our 70th anniversary celebrations also saw a service of thanksgiving at Hexham Abbey.

And there was a private dedication at St Aidan’s Church in Thockrington, where Lord Beveridge, the founder of the NHS, is buried.

Marking this occasion has been fantastic and really brought home how much the NHS means to us all.

We’ve put together an uplifting video of our celebrations and people’s thoughts about the NHS, which you can view on our website at www.northumbria.nhs.uk

In previous columns, I’ve mentioned that our day room was being revamped with the support of our Bright charity to improve the environment for patients and their relatives.

I’m pleased to say that the work has now been completed and we held a small tea party for everyone involved in the project to celebrate the transformation.

As you may recall, we’ve made the area quieter by moving the access to the store room out of the room and de-cluttered the space.

We’ve also decorated the room in warm colours to create a welcoming area, and we’ve furnished it with a variety of items – sofas, chairs, tables and a sideboard – to enable the room to be used to its best potential.

We have also created a dedicated reading corner, with chairs and a lamp, thanks to funds from the Alnwick League of Friends.

The end result is truly excellent and we’re sure the refurbishment will encourage our patients to use the room more.

This could be from simply spending time with their visitors and fellow patients, away from the ward environment, to socialising and playing games.

Certainly, the reaction from patients, their families and those involved in planning and designing the room at the opening was overwhelmingly positive, which certainly bodes well for the future use of the space.

Earlier this year, we invited local people to put themselves forward to become a governor of our trust.

Governors represent the views of local people and help to build links between our trust and the many communities it serves.

Duties include holding non-executive directors to account for the performance of the board, reviewing the annual accounts and report, and representing the interests of the public in governance meetings.

In the Berwick constituency, which covers the Berwick and Alnwick areas, we were looking for two residents to fill vacant positions.

Following a ballot of our members, Barry Allison has been re-elected for a further three years and Mick McCarthy has been newly elected.

Barry has a background in primary care as a pharmacist and senior store manager, and a training and development officer with a large multi-national company.

Mick worked as a registered nurse before retiring. He is currently a community first responder for the ambulance service in Berwick and a member of his GP patient group.

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Barry and Mick, and wish them well in their roles.

They join our existing governors for the area Linda Pepper, Pauline Wilson, Andrew Gray and Peter Dawson on our council of governors.

Today (Thursday), our trust is launching an exciting initiative in Alnwick to create opportunities for young people to volunteer in their community.

Funded by #iwill, the Pears Foundation, Department of Culture Media and Sport and The Big Lottery, we are proud that we have been selected as a beacon site in England to deliver this project.

We’ve been working with our social care support team and district nurses to develop a project that will address loneliness among the elderly population by providing a befriending service.

We’ve already recruited 16 volunteers from the Duchess’s Community High School in Alnwick and from James Calvert Spence College in Amble, and we will be working with schools across Northumberland and North Tyneside to take on more young volunteers.

Look out for more details about the Pears #iwill project in the media, on our website and on social media.

Before I sign off this column, I wanted to highlight that following the hot weather and World Cup, blood stocks are at low levels.

I would urge anyone who is able to, no matter which blood group you are, to give blood.

There are opportunities to give blood in a community near you.

Please visit the website www.blood.nhs.uk or ring 0300 123 2323 for further information or to make an appointment and help to save a life.

I hope you all enjoy what’s left of the summer and let’s hope the good weather we’ve been enjoying holds out for a little while longer.