Ensuring services are as good as possible

To make sure our services continue to provide excellent care we we carry out a programme of service reviews every year where different services are assessed against the Care Quality Commission criteria for safe, effective, caring, responsive and well-led care.


Measuring the quality of clinical care

Each year different specialties undertake a range of clinical audits to measure the quality of their clinical practice against agreed best practice standards and criteria.  Every year we undertake over 400 local clinical audits, and take part in over 50 national clinical audits.

These audits may include checking clinical guidelines are being followed, that infection control standards are being met, that safety processes prior to operations are being adhered to, and that patients are receiving the right information and advice they need. Following an audit, teams identify any actions required for improvements.

The results of audits are shared with our staff and other stakeholders and we publish outcomes in our annual quality account. A public engagement event was held in partnership with HealthWatch Northumberland in September 2016 focussing on the involvement and participation of patients and carers in the clinical audit programme. You can see the report from the event here. We are looking at ways to further involve patients and carers in clinical audit process, such as by identifying topics for audit, setting patient-led standards, and identifying actions for improvement. 


Ward and service based assessments

We run a quality improvement programme called 15 steps where teams of clinical and non-clinical staff visit a ward or service unannounced and assess the quality of care. This includes talking to patients, carers and staff about their experiences, examining the cleanliness of the environment, observing interactions between patients and staff, and checking records. Ward and service teams receive verbal feedback the same day and develop an action plan to address any issues the assessment identifies. The assessments are used to identify both areas in need of improvement and also to identify many examples of best practice that can be shared with others.


Quality Strategy 

We launched a quality strategy which provided staff with a clear focus, aiming to ensure that quality of care underpins every decision taken by every member of staff and to provide the safest health and care services to patients in hospital and in the community. We actively encourage ideas and suggestions so we can support staff to make these a reality and make a difference, no matter how big or small. 


Saving lives through early intervention 

Our work to save lives from sepsis, a time critical condition that can lead to organ damage, septic shock and death has included a major awareness-raising campaign with staff to improve early recognition and treatment. This is alongside interventions including an infection screening tool, daily audits and weekly compliance reports. This work saves five lives a month.

Keeping patients informed

Our ‘Keep calm and ask’ campaign encourages patients and their families to ask any questions they may have about medication before they, or their loved ones, leave hospital. This has been rolled out across the trust’s hospitals following feedback from patients that they are sometimes unclear and confused about new medication they have been given whilst in hospital. You can read more about this campaign here

Measuring the success of a service

We also take part in a national programme called Patient Reported Outcome Measures (PROMS), where all of our patients who are undergoing a hip or knee replacement, varicose vein surgery or groin hernia surgery are surveyed. Patients are asked about their health before and after their operation to help measure the success of the operation from the patient's point of view.

The questionnaires aim to collect information to measure and improve the quality of healthcare services offered by different hospitals across the NHS.