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Why we’re doing things differently

Just before Christmas we formally launched Collaborative Newcastle – an innovative new partnership seeking to improve the health, wealth and wellbeing of everyone in the City.

We’d been working together behind the scenes for more than 18 months, but the time was right to share details of what we’re looking to achieve as a partnership – and why we believe it’s of such importance.

In simple terms, across all of the partners, we’re supporting our staff to collaborate more easily with colleagues in other health and social care organisations; we’re combining our efforts, expertise and resources in new and creative ways; and we’re working collectively to reduce inequalities and provide better opportunities for everyone who lives and works in Newcastle.

At the heart of it is a clear understanding that physical and mental health is affected by a range of factors. We know that people have healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives when they have a home, a job and a support network – through family, friends or their local community.

Many different organisations play a role in supporting people to tackle issues or challenges that affect their health and quality of life. But we know from bitter experience that it’s simply ineffective to work separately, to pass people from one service or organisation to another and to view each challenge in isolation. Through Collaborative Newcastle we’re approaching things differently.

For example, this case study talks about an elderly lady with multiple physical health problems. Ultimately though, it was social isolation that was holding her back. With the right support through social prescribing – which takes a more holistic view of wellbeing – she began to take more physical exercise, her health improved, her confidence grew, and she established a broader network of friends and community support. All of these benefits combined to improve her health, happiness and quality of life.

This is a great example of why Collaborative Newcastle exists. We are creating a more joined-up approach, a seamless system of advice, care, treatment and support for people of all ages which will enable us to collectively tackle the things that hold people back and stop them from realising their potential.

You’ll notice though that as well as health and wellbeing, Collaborative Newcastle’s vision talks about ‘wealth’. We know that health (and health inequalities, in particular) have a massive impact on prosperity and wider wellbeing – it’s two sides of the same coin. Poor health can affect employment opportunities, and similarly financial insecurity or limited access to good jobs can negatively affect a person’s health and wellbeing.

In this case study we describe recent work to secure and establish the Integrated Covid Hub North East (ICHNE), which aims to transform COVID-19 test and trace capabilities in the region, whilst also creating hundreds of new jobs. It’s an ambitious Collaborative Newcastle project that will positively impact the health and wealth of many local people.

We purposefully developed plans for ICHNE to include a range of employment opportunities. From the very outset, we’ve had a strong focus on targeting areas of deprivation and ensuring local recruitment. Many jobs – particularly those at our new Covid testing lab – have flexible working times and no previous training or qualifications are required. Applications from people with a Black, Asian and minority ethnic background were encouraged, as well as those living with disabilities, people who lost employment during the pandemic or beforehand, and students, including those on sandwich years.

The Hub provides high quality education and training to support all employees. Of the 700 lab appointed to date (January 2021), 18% come from BAME backgrounds, 12% LGBT and 8% said they were living with a disability.

We can confidently say that the Hub will change lives – both the lives of those who have secured new jobs and opportunities but also the lives of everyone in the City and wider region who will benefit from the groundbreaking work now underway to tackle the pandemic.

As we look to the year ahead, we’ll be working with our partners to build on these and a range of other projects underway to change things for the better, to integrate health and social care in the City and, importantly, to help Newcastle recover from the impact of Covid-19.

Martin Wilson is Chief Operating Officer at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust, Managing Director of the Integrated Covid Hub North East and Chair of the Collaborative Newcastle Delivery Group – which involves representatives from Newcastle Hospitals Trust, Newcastle City Council, Newcastle Gateshead NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, Newcastle GP Services, Primary Care Networks and the voluntary sector.


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