Staff teams and volunteers make our ‘good’ hospital

Jane, Duchess of Northumberland, presents an ECG machine to Matron Anna Wood watched by Anne Harper, Chairman of the League of Friends of Alnwick Infirmary. Picture by Jane Coltman
Jane, Duchess of Northumberland, presents an ECG machine to Matron Anna Wood watched by Anne Harper, Chairman of the League of Friends of Alnwick Infirmary. Picture by Jane Coltman

Welcome to the first of regular matron columns in the Northumberland Gazette that aim to bring you up to date with developments at Alnwick Infirmary.

As it’s the first column, I thought I’d start by introducing myself and giving you an overview of the services we provide in Alnwick and the surrounding area.

Alnwick Infirmary.

Alnwick Infirmary.

I have been a nurse for many years and a matron for the last seven at Berwick Infirmary, overseeing the running of the hospital. Recently, I took over the reins from Julie Button at Alnwick Infirmary.

Julie has done a sterling job at Alnwick for the last eight years, however with her also covering the Whalton Unit in Morpeth, it made sense for geographic reasons for her to cover Rothbury Community Hospital, which I was previously doing alongside Berwick, and for me to do Alnwick.

So far it’s going really well and I’m continuing Julie’s good work, while beginning to put my own stamp on things where I can.

As you all know, Alnwick Infirmary is held in very high regard by the local community. For more than 100 years it has been at the heart of healthcare in the town and surrounding area, providing high quality patient care.

Overall, the hospital was rated ‘good’ and there were dozens of positives in the report, with staff coming in for high praise.

Of course, none of this would be possible without our teams.

We have scores of committed and dedicated staff who work extremely hard to deliver person-centred care for our patients. From our doctors and nurses to allied health professionals, such as physiotherapists and speech and language therapists, porters, catering staff and domestics, everyone plays a hugely important role and is a key part of the team.

Our staff are there when someone comes in for an outpatient appointment, has a procedure in our day surgery unit, stays overnight on the ward or has a baby.

Our community staff and GP colleagues are very much part of our team too. For example, the district nursing team that covers the Alnwick, Longhoughton, Embleton and Seahouses areas, is based on the hospital site at Bondgate Surgery, and there are dozens of other staff providing care in the community.

At Northumbria, we pride ourselves on providing integrated care to enable patients to experience a smooth transition between hospital and home. In fact, Northumberland is leading the way nationally when it comes to delivering joined-up care outside of hospital as more care is now being delivered by health and care staff who can safely look after people in the comfort of their own surroundings.

It is the success of this work, thanks to our long-standing partnership with Northumberland County Council, that we are leading national work to integrate care even further as a ‘vanguard’ site. We’re also seen as one of the best in the country when it comes to discharging older people from hospital in a safe and timely manner.

This is just one of the many plaudits we’ve had for the services we provide, including the overall ‘outstanding’ rating for our trust by the Care Quality Commission earlier this year following a rigorous inspection in November 2015, which left no stone unturned.

Every member of staff – from my teams working in Alnwick and colleagues in other community hospitals to those caring for emergency patients in the Northumbria Specialist Emergency Care Hospital – played a part in this rating and should be rightly proud.

Like all other hospitals and community sites within our trust, Alnwick Infirmary was subject to the same intense scrutiny from the inspection team, which looked at all areas of the hospital, including services for inpatients, outpatients, the minor injuries unit and stand-alone maternity unit.

Overall, the hospital was rated ‘good’ and there were dozens of positives in the report, with staff coming in for high praise. Inspectors, who noted there were good staffing levels on the ward, said staff went the extra mile to be supportive to assist patients over and above routine tasks and ensure they were fully included in all decision-making regarding their health and wellbeing.

The inspectors chatted to patients. All spoke highly of the care and felt staff were open and honest. They said staff took the time to explain procedures and ensured they understood, and said staff were kind, caring and respectful at all times.

We also have volunteers at the hospital who help make the hospital what it is and create a welcoming atmosphere.

This week there’s been a special event held at the hospital, attended by the Duchess of Northumberland – the 60th anniversary of Alnwick League of Friends, which I was privileged to attend on behalf of all the staff. The League of Friends fund-raise in the community and run a shop in the hospital to be able to donate numerous items, which are improving patients’ experiences of being in hospital.

The Duchess also marked the opening of the memorial garden during her visit, which is a lovely spot for patients and visitors to spend time.

We also have volunteers who facilitate activities for patients on the ward at Alnwick through our Hospital Volunteer Service, and volunteers for our Macmillan Support Service, which we run in partnership with Macmillan Cancer Care, support adults who have been affected by bereavement, cancer or a life-limiting illness, their families and carers.

The service is looking to recruit more volunteers to develop emotional and social groups for patients and carers and one-to-one support in the bereavement and befriending service.

For more information about the service or the volunteering opportunities available, please contact our Northumberland team on 01670 855533 or email

Before I sign off, I’d like to remind you about our roadshows, which are part of our rolling programme of engagement activity taking place across Northumberland and North Tyneside next month.

We’re going to be in Alnwick Market Place on Thursday, October 6, from 10am to 4pm. We’re in Berwick Market Place on Wednesday, October 5, from 10am to 4pm, and Morpeth Market Square on Saturday, October 8, from 10am to noon. For a full list of venues, please visit

People are invited to the sessions to share feedback with ourselves and local NHS organisations about any recent experiences, and to give their views about how care can be improved. Hope to see you there.

We are also holding three drop-in engagement sessions in the group room at Rothbury Community Hospital following the recent temporary suspension of inpatient services.

If you would like to find out more, then please do pop along to one of our sessions and talk to the team on Wednesday, September 28, from 5pm to 8pm, Wednesday, October 5, from 4pm to 6pm, or Wednesday, October 12, from 4.30pm to 6.30pm.