As this financial year came to a close, the NHS in Gateshead was in the grip of arguably the biggest challenge it has ever faced with the onset of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Our staff have, once again, risen to the occasion by showing some amazing teamwork to provide the best possible care for people with COVID-19, as well as our non-COVID patients, in Gateshead.
They have shown inspirational courage and tenacity, working around the clock during an ever-changing situation – and setting aside their own anxieties to be there for our patients and their families.
We’re extremely proud of everything they have done to keep the community safe and for the continuous hard work and care they provide.
We are humbled and inspired to see such commitment, dedication to patients and compassion to one another.
Thank you to each and every one of the Gateshead Health family.
The year brought other significant challenges, such as increased pressure on our services, rising numbers of patients requiring our care and greater strain on the resources that we need to run the Trust.
In recent years the Trust has come under increasing financial pressures and, like many other NHS organisations, we worked hard to meet our cost reduction target of £9m.
A number of corporate actions were taken, including looking at our use of things like agency staff, enhanced care or overtime – as well as closer scrutiny when filling vacancies and a number of longer-term transformation schemes.
Despite the challenges we faced, there has also been much cause for celebration throughout the year with the Trust officially rated as good with outstanding care by the national healthcare regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC), with improvements noted in every area.
Within the hospital our surgery, maternity and gynaecology services were also rated as outstanding overall.
Meanwhile, a survey of patients carried out by the CQC found that patients rated their experience with us
highly, giving us a score of 8.4 out of 10.
Respondents singled out our emergency department for praise, as well as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.
QE Gateshead also won two awards in the CHKS Top Hospitals programme.
We were named one of the top 40 hospitals in the country and we won the award for national patient experience – an award which is based on what the public and patients say about us, making it especially gratifying for our hardworking staff.
Other awards included our radiography team being named the best in the North for their hard work and dedication to providing a round-the-clock service for patients.
We were also commended for being the highest rated Trust under the Freedom to Speak Up scheme, for making sure staff are able to speak up when things go wrong.
QE Gateshead won a new contract to provide Human papillomavirus (HPV) screening for the North East, Yorkshire and Humber areas. (Screening for HPV helps protect against cancer).
This was a major achievement and a significant new contract for the pathology unit.
The Trust was competing with several much larger organisations and won the contract with a safe, compliant bid that many people across the Trust worked hard to complete.
Other achievements included the relocation of the Woodside Unit, which looks after dementia patients, after a major redevelopment, the introduction of pioneering technology to detect breast cancer, and we were recognised as a leading provider of clinical data that helps improve patient safety during joint replacement operations.
NHS organisations are becoming increasingly aware of the benefits staff networks can bring as an important part of making continuous improvements to the workforce equality agenda.
QE Gateshead is committed to providing an inclusive environment in which diverse employees can work together and feel valued.
The Trust engaged with staff this year to establish three staff networks: the LGBT network, BAME network and D-Ability network, each focusing on promoting awareness of equality and inclusion and supporting a fairer and more diverse NHS for everyone.
These were all amazing achievements by everyone working for the Trust and it provided recognition for all the hard work by our staff.
Everyone in Gateshead should be proud of the high-quality care that we’re providing to patients day in, day out at a very challenging time for the NHS.
The hard work, dedication and passion of all our teams in both clinical and support roles, in the hospital and across the community, continues to shine through and we owe everyone across the Gateshead Health family a huge thank you.
Yvonne Ormston MBE