Unit is rated ‘outstanding’ after making an impression

Whalton Unit staff  with patient Pat Wells celebrating  the 70th birthday of the NHS. Picture by Jane Coltman
Whalton Unit staff with patient Pat Wells celebrating the 70th birthday of the NHS. Picture by Jane Coltman

Welcome to this month’s column about the health service in the Morpeth area and across our trust.

This month I’m going to highlight an ‘outstanding’ report for the Whalton Unit, how you could save someone’s life, and a national campaign on the horizon to encourage people to stop smoking.

NHS Whalton Unit.

NHS Whalton Unit.

However, before I go into those, I wanted to remind you of your role in helping to stop the spread of viruses.

While it may only be the start of September, we’ve recently had increased incidence of diarrhoea and vomiting at the Whalton Unit and in wards across the trust, which demonstrates that these viruses can circulate in the community at any time of the year.

For this reason, it’s important that you always practice good hand hygiene and do not visit anyone in hospital, or come into hospital yourself, until you’ve been clear of symptoms for 48 hours to reduce the risk of passing it on.

And if you’re eligible for a free NHS flu jab, look out for information at your GP practice in the coming weeks and make sure you get your vaccination as soon as it becomes available.

While I hate to say it, the cold weather will be upon us before long and it’s never too early to start thinking about being prepared for winter and making sure you have a well-stocked medicine cabinet at home to treat common ailments without needing to call on the NHS’ help.

As a trust, we are continually looking to improve the care we provide to our patients and have embraced what is called the ‘15 Steps Challenge’ programme from the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

‘15 Steps’ is all about putting our patients first and viewing the ward and care environment from the patient’s perspective. Our teams of senior matrons organise impromptu visits to our wards and departments and feed back to both frontline teams and the board on their first impressions within 15 steps of walking onto a ward.

This has been carried out at the Whalton Unit and I’m pleased to say that it was rated overall as ‘outstanding’.

The report found that the unit felt “calm”, “unhurried” and “personalised to the patients”. There was evidence of a whole team approach and everyone was aware of patients’ needs and were “very friendly and supportive to patients and relatives as well as each other”.

It found that it was evident that patients with dementia would have their needs met through a variety of initiatives in place.

While the vast majority of the feedback was positive, and we’re very pleased, there were areas highlighted to be improved, which we will address as that’s what 15 Steps is all about.

You may be aware that this week (until September 9) is Organ Donation Week and we, as a trust, are urging people across Northumberland and North Tyneside to talk to their families about organ donation to increase the number of people whose lives can be saved or transformed by an organ transplant.

Nationally, three people die every day in need of an organ. Families will always be approached about donation if a loved one can donate their organs. By having this conversation now and knowing what your loved one wants helps families to support their decision at a difficult time.

In the last year, 14 patients have received transplants from organs donated at The Northumbria Hospital, which is fantastic.

We’ve been raising awareness and asking people to have their photo taken in our selfie frame to share on social media.

We’ve had a great response and we hope that leads to more people joining the organ donor register. You can do this at www.organdonation.nhs.uk or ring 0300 123 2323.

This week we’ve also announced our plans to install a specially-designed artwork at The Northumbria Hospital next year. The sculpture is being made by blacksmith artist Stephen Lunn at his forge in Red Row, and is funded by the trust’s organ donation committee.

Later this month, the annual campaign to encourage people to stop smoking — Stoptober — will launch.

While it is still a few weeks away, now is a good time to start thinking about quitting and accessing the most suitable support to stop smoking.

Evidence shows that you’re four times more likely to stop smoking for good if you get support from an NHS stop smoking advisor, and we would urge you to access the support that’s available.

In Northumberland, we have an excellent service, with clinics in a range of venues, including GP practices, pharmacies and community centres. Some out-of-hours clinics are also available for those who find it difficult to attend appointments during the day.

To find out more, contact the service on 01670 813135 or visit www.northumbria.nhs.uk/stopsmoking

As you may know, we have residents who have put themselves forward to become a governor of our trust to represent the views of local people and help build links between Northumbria Healthcare and the many communities we serve.

We’ve recently held elections for public governors for the Wansbeck area and David Wilkinson and Brian Kipling have been re-elected for a further three years. They join Julia Mann as representatives for the area, and there are three vacancies.

We would urge people to think about putting themselves forward when we hold elections in the spring. Anyone can register their interest by emailing foundation@northumbria.nhs.uk and we will let you know when nominations open.

Before I sign off, I wanted to briefly look back on celebrations to mark the 70th birthday of the NHS in July. We, like trusts across the country, marked this occasion 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 Whalton Unit and in hospitals across our trust to have birthday cake, and our staff created a party atmosphere by putting up bunting and balloons and giving out flags.

We held seven 1940s-themed tea dances, again organised by our Bright charity, which were a huge success and greatly enjoyed by all. We also held a service of thanksgiving at Hexham Abbey and a private dedication at St Aidan’s Church, Thockrington, where Lord Beveridge, the founder of the NHS, is buried.

Marking this occasion was fantastic and really brought home how much the NHS means to us all. We’ve put together a video of our celebrations and people’s thoughts on the NHS. Have a look at it on our website at www.northumbria.nhs.uk