Hear to help: preventing isolation during lockdown

Clinicians from Newcastle Hospital’s Audiology Department are adapting the way they help patients who use hearing aids by offering an improved postal repairs service to prevent loneliness and isolation.

Patients receive replacement batteries and tubing for their earmoulds so they can continue to hear, despite the lockdown restriction on non-urgent face-to-face appointments.

Kate Johnston, Head of Audiology at the Freeman Hospital said “Lockdown and being isolated from family and friends is tough on anyone, but if you lose your ability to hear, this can be even more isolating for the individual.

“We want to make sure that everyone can maintain some form of normality and can keep connected as possible, in what is a difficult time for everyone.

“We are still offering patients advice and support. If anyone needs batteries for their hearing aid or require information, please get in touch.”

The postal service is something that will be maintained after the current covid-19 restrictions are lifted and patients are encouraged to continue to order batteries and tubes via post where possible.

The Trust is no longer able to operate a drop-in hearing aid repair service at the Freeman Hospital. The hearing aid repair service will be offered by appointment only.

Appointments will be available from 8.15am – 5pm Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Kate added: “Appointments will be limited to allow us to adhere to social distancing regulations in our waiting areas, so these appointments will be for emergency repairs only e.g.broken earmoulds. Please only book an appointment if it is an emergency.  For all other repairs and hearing aid maintenance, we are still providing our postal repair service.”

To arrange a postal repair or to book an appointment please contact Audiology:

Telephone: 0191 223 1043

Text message only: 07766 087 036

Email – Adults: tnu-tr.audiology@nhs.net or Paediatrics: tnu-tr.childrensaudiologynorthoftyne@nhs.net

The Trust continues to follow updates from NHS England and will be seeing non-urgent patients when it is safe to do so.

Virtual visiting at Newcastle Hospitals

Covid-19 Patients at Newcastle Hospitals are staying connected with their families thanks to new iPads being rolled out across wards.

Visiting is currently suspended because of Covid-19 but the introduction of the iPads means friends and families of patients can take part in virtual visits to stay connected.
So far, 17 iPads have been given to wards to support virtual visiting and consultation. The trust has also created a ‘keeping in touch’ email address for families to communicate with staff about their loved ones and send messages to pass on.
The Intensive Care Ward at The Royal Victoria Infirmary is one of the wards to have benefitted from the iPads so far.
Matthew Faulds, Consultant in Anaesthesia and ICM, explained the impact they are having on both staff and patients during this difficult time.
“Patients in isolation have varying communication needs, a lot are unable to speak but have families who are desperate to feel connected to them in some way. When we told families we were able offer virtual visiting they were overjoyed.
“For some families, crowded round a glowing screen, it was the first time they had seen their relative for weeks. The types of emotions that flowed out covered almost the entire spectrum from joy to sadness, excitement to frustration, confusion to acceptance and understanding. There were many tears, quite a lot of laughter and, above all, a massive outpouring of relief and thanks.
“Something that struck me was the effect on the staff involved. Although I couldn’t see their faces through all the PPE, I could tell from the way they moved and how they held their shoulders that this process had lifted a burden and taken away a little of the stress.
“It is easy to forget how deeply staff are affected by being removed from the normal human interactions we see when patients are unwell and, particularly in such difficult circumstances, it is a great relief to be able to facilitate the caring and holistic aspect of our work, not just the clinical.
“Another benefit of the iPads has been staff communication, through secure video calling; I have been able to discuss problems overnight with members of the team, meaning we can tackle more complex problems without having to use precious PPE at a time when we must take opportunities to preserve stocks.”
The project which has been led by the Patient Experience team at Newcastle Hospitals, has made use of iPads from an existing project within the Trust, as well as a further iPads which have been donated by Link MEP Consulting Engineers and John Lewis.
Dean Keith, Director of Link MEP Consulting Engineers said “We wanted to do something to help the NHS during this time, after speaking to Newcastle Hospitals and hearing about the project we knew how important the iPads would be.”
“We are really proud to be part of the project and to be able to help patients communicate with their loved ones at a time when visual contact is so important.”
Tracy Scott, Head of Patient Experience said; “Since launching virtual visiting across some of our wards, we have seen the positive benefits it has had on our staff, patients and their families.”
“The patient experience team plan to roll out more iPads across wards in the coming weeks, which will support patients and their loved ones to be able keep in touch during this difficult time.

What’s next for health services in Northumberland?

You have the chance to ask NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) what’s going to happen next to health services in the county. The CCG plans and pays for these services locally.
Submit your question on agenda items to: melodyprice@nhs.net, by Monday 18 May and it will be raised and responded to within the governing body meeting on Wednesday 20 May. Responses will be shared with the individual member of the public who has raised the question within seven working days and recorded as part of the approved minutes when published on the CCG website.

Join our online forums

As we will be unable to get out and about across the county to meet with and listen to people for a while, we’re holding some public online forums, and we’d like you to join us. If you are unable to take part but would like to tell us about your experiences of these services, members of the team will be available by phone, text and email (see below) each Wednesday between 3.00pm and 4.00pm to listen, answer any questions and help with providing information about services.

The forums will take place via Zoom. Read our guide on how to use Zoom.


Online Forums

Wednesday 20 May 2.00pm – 3.00pm: Dementia Services

Wednesday 27 May 2.00pm – 3.00pm: Adult Social Services (to include support to live independently, care homes, learning disability services)

Wednesday 3 June 2.00pm- 3.00pm: Mental Health Services

Wednesday 10 June 2.00pm – 3.00pm: Special Eduction Needs and Disabilities

Wednesday 17 June 2.00pm – 3.00pm: Maternity services

If you would like to take part please email contact Lesley Tweddell, lesleyt@healthwatchnorthumberland.co.uk, or call 07803 427 466.

NHS Volunteer Responders

Registration for NHS Volunteer Responders is temporarily paused to enable over 750,000 applications to be processed and get the volunteer army up and running.  

NHS Volunteer Responders is a new group that will carry out simple, non-medical tasks to support people in England who are self-isolating because of specific health conditions. They will be used by healthcare professionals to make sure people who are highly vulnerable to coronavirus are able to stay safe and well at home.

NHS Volunteer Responders will support with simple but vital tasks including driving people to and from hospital, delivering food and medication, and telephone befriending. Volunteers will also support the NHS to transport equipment and supplies.

Volunteers have been recruited for four key roles; the support you request will need to match these roles in order to ensure the volunteer has received appropriate guidance and checks:

Community Response Volunteer: This role involves collecting shopping, medication or other essential supplies for someone who is self-isolating/vulnerable, and delivering these supplies to their home.

Patient Transport Volunteer: This role supports the NHS by providing transport to patients who are medically fit for discharge, as well as taking patients to their essential appointments.

NHS Transport Volunteer: This role involves transporting equipment, supplies and/or medication between NHS services and sites, it may also involve assisting pharmacies with medication delivery.

Check in and Chat Volunteer: This role provides short-term telephone support to individuals who are at risk of loneliness as a consequence of self-isolation.

NHS Volunteer Responders are not intended to replace local groups helping their vulnerable neighbours but is an additional service provided by the NHS.

Call 0808 196 3382 or visit the website

Ambulance Service launches Video Technology

Patients will soon be able to speak to ambulance service clinicians via video thanks to new technology being introduced by North East Ambulance Service (NEAS).

NEAS is making use of Attend Anywhere software to allow ambulance staff working in the community to seek advice from clinicians working within the Emergency Operations Centre via video link. This will also be used to speak to patients who require advice but may not need an ambulance to attend to them. Building on this, the service will then be expanded to the wider health system, including care homes.

The new system is one of 17 projects which NEAS has been working on since being chosen as one of three ambulance services to join the national Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) programme back in 2018.

Video conferencing will be rolled out at NEAS in the following ways:

Clinical advice for staff – newly qualified paramedics will be able to use the facilities to speak to specialist paramedics for clinical advice and reassurance whilst on scene with a patient who they think can be safely left at home without needing to travel to hospital. This support was previously carried out as a telephone conversation, relying heavily on vocal descriptions; using video instead will allow staff to use visual cues in their clinical decision making.

Patient support – after going through the triage system on either NHS111 or 999, patients who need to speak to a clinician may be given a secure link via text message or email, which will take them through to a video call on their smart phone, computer or tablet.

Specialist support – the system also has the potential to be used by other specialists, such as the NEAS Hazardous Area Response Team and Great North Air Ambulance, to see whether their services are required on scene, ensuring their specialist skills are reserved for patients who need them most.

Paul Aitken-Fell, lead consultant paramedic at NEAS, said “As the regional ambulance service, NEAS forms a critical part of the care process, bridging primary, secondary and acute care. We only touch patients for a short period of time, with little knowledge of their medical history but often in their most desperate times of need. It is therefore vital that we ensure we are informed as much as possible when we are needed.

“The initiatives we are pursuing through this programme, such as video consultation, are helping us to make better use of technology to improve the care and treatment decisions our clinicians make for our patients.

“In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever that we are able to offer ways of being able to keep patients safely at home and reduce unnecessary ambulance attendances and referrals to hospital and other providers.

“One of the hardest jobs for a clinician working within our Emergency Operations Centre is the inability to see a patient and therefore having to rely on what they are being told over the phone. This inevitably means that they sometimes have no choice but to dispatch an ambulance just to get a pair of eyes on a patient and make sure they’re ok.

“The ability to see patients face to face via video consultations therefore means we can potentially reduce ambulance callouts, freeing up our clinicians to see more patients. We believe it may also mean we see a reduction in referrals to other providers, thereby freeing up appointments in the wider system and reducing the wait for people who need those physical appointments. And, for our newly qualified paramedics, it means they will have improved access to clinical support to help them deliver high quality care for every contact whilst also reducing unnecessary hospital admissions.”

The aim of the GDE programme is to join up and digitalise health systems to provide clinicians with more timely access to accurate information and support service change, thereby improving patient care.

NEAS was chosen to join the GDE programme in recognition of its track record of digital delivery, which included being the first ambulance trust to deliver NHS111 services, being the first ambulance trust to roll out airwave radio and communications system service wide and being the first NHS111 provider to deliver region wide electronic GP bookings.

Other projects which have either been completed or are in the process of being implemented as part of the GDE programme, include:

  • Developing a common message to allow ambulance systems to digitally pass patient information to hospital systems supporting the transfer of care process;
  • Creating a central directory which provides NHS providers with real time information about services available to support a patient;
  • Capturing a patient’s NHS number as part of their 999 call, without delaying treatment to the patient, to provide clinicians with access to additional information relating to the patient’s previous symptoms and treatments and to transfer information to other services, such as GPs following an ambulance call-out;
  • Developing simulation software to identify the impact of system changes, both internally and externally, to ensure resources match the needs of the service;
  • Developing a messaging and collaboration platform for informing ambulance staff about their compliance with best practice and informing them of changes;
  • Introducing barcode tracking to better manage medicine and stocks on vehicles.

Talking Matters Northumberland: Update

Changes to services during the coronavirus outbreak


Due to the current crisis Talking Matters Northumberland staff are working from home, so have had to make changes to the phone referral process.

To make a referral you must now leave a voicemail with your name, date of birth and a contact phone number, as direct calls can’t be taken.

The team aims to call you back the same day and please be aware that this will be from a private number– please ensure your phone will accept this call.

Two attempts will be made throughout the day to speak to you, between 9.00am and 5.00pm but if you can’t be contacted, your referral will be closed and you will have to call again and leave another message.


If you have any concerns about being able to make a referral online or through this call system you can speak to your GP about them referring on your behalf.

Talking Matters Northumberland website

Digital and face to face therapy will be back on offer as soon as it is possible to do this safely and effectively.

Coronavirus Information

Coronavirus Information Northumberland

As the coronavirus situation is changing constantly in the UK, we are directing you to the main sources of the latest information and advice.

Our team is working from home as of 23 March but we are still here for you and replying to all emails and calls – please bear with us if it takes us a little longer to get back to you.

The main symptoms of coronavirus are: a cough, a high temperature and shortness of breath. If you have any of these symptoms you should stay at home and self isolate.


You can find the latest information on our Coronavirus Page HERE


Public invited to have say on plans for new Berwick hospital

Update 22 April 2020: 

The deadline for residents to look at and comment on proposals for the new Berwick hospital has been extended to 5.00pm on Monday 27 April. Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has extended the consultation to give people as much opportunity as possible to see them before the planning application is submitted.


People in Berwick are being given another opportunity to see plans for a new £25million hospital in the town.

Following community engagement last month, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is inviting the public to view the proposals on a new website – www.berwickcommunityhospital.co.uk – before the planning application is submitted. The trust had intended to hold a drop-in session in the town, however, this is now not possible due to the current government restrictions.

On the website, people will be able to look at the plans for the new development on the existing Berwick Infirmary site and make comments before the consultation closes at 5.00pm on Monday 20 April 2020. People without access to the internet can telephone 0191 261 5685. The hoardings around the area where the new hospital is set to be built are being erected and the winning images from the trust’s photography competition will go on display in due course.

Marion Dickson, executive director for nursing, midwifery, allied health professionals, surgery and community services at Northumbria Healthcare, is leading the Berwick redevelopment project.

She said “Whilst dealing with the evolving coronavirus situation must be the trust’s top priority, building our new Berwick hospital remains an important project for us and we’re very keen to keep it on track.

“Circumstances have meant that we’ve had to change the way we’re carrying out the next stage of the process with an online consultation rather than a drop-in session for the public. However, please be assured that people will have the same amount of information and a telephone number is available if residents have difficulty accessing the internet.

“We were very pleased to see so many people at our drop-in sessions at the Town Hall last month and that the response we had was hugely positive. We fully appreciate that these are unsettling times however we’d urge people to log on, if they’d like to, and view the updated plans and let us know their views.”

The new hospital will re-provide all the existing services and embrace the latest technology. It is planned that Well Close Medical Group will be part of the new development which will pave the way for further integration between primary care (the GPs) and secondary care (the hospital).

The resurfacing of the car park next to maternity is complete and next to the minor injuries unit is now the only way to access the hospital, as the number of entrances have been reduced across the trust to help further reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Marion added “These are extremely challenging times for everyone working in the NHS. I would like to say thank you and express how very proud I am of our Northumbria family for the passion and dedication our staff are showing every single day to care for our patients.”

A Childrens’ Guide to Coronavirus

We know many children will be anxious or worried about the coronavirus outbreak and that many will have questions about everything that is happening at the moment. The Children’s Commissioner for England has put together a short guide to help explain to children, in language they can understand, some of the issues surrounding coronavirus.

It has also created a page full of advice, information, suggestions and resources for parents, educators and other professionals who work with children, to help during the pandemic.