Back to school support from Diabetes UK

As schools are due to reopen in September, Diabetes UK knows that parents and carers might be worried about the safety of their children with diabetes returning to school.

To help ease these worries they have organised a ‘Back to school’ question and answer session via Zoom with a panel of experts who will help to answer any questions you might have.

The Zoom session will take place on Wednesday 12 August from 7.30pm to 8.30pm.

The panel of experts will include:

  • Dr Fiona Campbell: Consultant Paediatrician and Diabetologist at Leeds Children’s Hospital
  • Carol Metcalfe: Advanced Specialist Practitioner in Paediatric Diabetes at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital
  • James Rodger-Phillips: a Head of Department at a secondary school who lives with type 1 diabetes
  • Steve Paxton: parent of two teenagers with type 1 diabetes and Good Care In School Award assessor

The Type 1 Events team are also running further panels for parents and carers in August and September:

  • Newly diagnosed – what happens when type 1 diabetes joins your family? Tuesday 18 August – 7pm to 8.30pm.
  • Becoming more independent. Monday 21 September – 7pm to 8.30pm.

If you would like to attend any of these events you can sign up here.

All of the latest advice for managing diabetes during the coronavirus outbreak can be found on the Diabetes UK coronavirus advice page.

Digital mental health support for young people

Young people aged 11-25 years living in Northumberland can now access a digital mental health support service. has been commissioned by the NHS Northumberland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) to provide a safe, confidential and anonymous way for young people to access emotional wellbeing and early intervention mental health support.

Once registered, Kooth can be accessed on any internet device. Users can complete a daily journal, set goals and seek support through self help resources and peer to peer support. There is also professional help available through qualified counsellors.

Fully trained and qualified counsellors and emotional wellbeing practitioners are available until 10pm each night, 365 days per year, to provide accessible out-of-hours emotional support.

There’s also a Kooth online magazine with helpful articles, personal experiences and tips from young people and the Kooth team.

Join Kooth here or watch this video to find out more.

Virtual NHS Consultations

recent survey for the British Medical Association showed that 95% of GPs are now offering remote consultations and 88% want to see greater use of them continue in the future.

Whilst people previously told us that they welcome the idea of the NHS making better use of new technology to help make care more convenient, people’s experiences of telephone, video, and email consultations to date have been more mixed.

For some, they are working well, and many previously sceptical individuals have been converted following a positive experience. For others, these types of appointments have introduced new barriers to care.

So how can we make sure that this revolution in the way care is delivered works for everyone?

What makes a virtual appointment good?

Last week Healthwatch England published the findings of some rapid research conducted in partnership with Traverse and National Voices. Involving people who have had a virtual consultation during the pandemic, this report provides useful insights for NHS services and individual clinicians.

Key findings and recommendations

Arranging a virtual consultation:

  • Feeling safe and comfortable – It’s important for people to feel safe, comfortable and that they have a confidential space in which to talk about their medical concerns. Most of those we spoke to hadn’t received any information in advance about how the appointment would work or what they could do to help. It would be useful for patients to be alerted to this fact beforehand so that they can prepare for their appointment.
  • Making the benefits known – Secondly, to realise the benefits of people not having to travel to appointments, patients need a reasonable time window for their appointment. Where people are not given this, it leads to increased frustration, with missed calls or unexpected delays creating anxiety.
  • Getting the format right
    Most of those we spoke to had telephone consultations, but a significant number felt that video would have been better.

We heard examples where people’s level of digital literacy had not been assessed before the appointment. There were also examples discussed where people felt remote consultations would never be appropriate, such as delivering bad news following a diagnosis.

During the appointment itself

Giving people the time they need

Whichever form of remote consultation is used, people were clear that it must not mean a compromise on the quality of the interaction. Appointments must not feel rushed, patients need to feel listened to and clinicians must have all the information they need to hand.

“I didn’t know what to expect. The physio created space to ask about how I was doing. I felt heard and was able to ask questions. It was refreshing. A normal physio session would be in a crowded room, five minutes instructions, you practice the movement, they pop back after seeing other people and ask you how you are getting on, it’s rushed. I see about 15-20 health professionals a year and this is the most person-centred session I have had.”

– Maria, physiotherapy patient.

Test, learn and improve

Seek feedback

As with any significant change it is important to seek feedback and to learn from what works and what needs improvement. Yet most participants in our research reported that they weren’t asked for feedback about their remote consultation experience.When we asked them for suggestions, they identified many ways in which remote consultations could be made better. For example, enabling sessions to be recorded and played back later so people can confirm they have understood, or introducing closed captioning to help those with hearing loss.

Overall, one of the biggest learning points was around quality. While some people in the health and care system may see remote consultations as a way of delivering care more efficiently, it is clear that any impact on quality will likely see a significant drop-off in people willing to access care in this way.

Getting the most out of the virtual health and care experience

Our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

The plan below sets out our plans for the next three years, as identified by the Healthwatch Northumberland Board.

We have three strategic aims which are the themes for our work over the lifetime of the strategy. Our work each year will be identified as meeting one or more of the aims.

Health: with the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of health service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in health service in Northumberland.

Social Care: With the help of Healthwatch Northumberland, the views, knowledge and experiences of service users and carers are listened to and influence changes and developments in social care services in Northumberland.

Communication and Engagement: the people, service providers, commissioners and key stakeholders in Northumberland know, trust and are involved with Healthwatch Northumberland.


Read our Strategic Plan for 2020-2022

Care Home Visits – New Guidance

The arrival of Covid-19 has meant that a number of restrictions have been placed on care homes to prevent the spread of infection and ensure the health and safety of both care workers and its residents. As the rate of infection is decreasing across the country, these restrictions are being lifted, however, a number of changes will be put in place to keep you and your loved ones safe.

This guidance has been taken from

When will I be able to visit a care home?

All decisions on the circumstances, times and frequency of visits to care homes will ultimately be made by the care home providers themselves. These decisions should be made in line with advice from local directors of public health, who will be developing local ‘dynamic risk assessments’ based on the principles outlined in the government’s guidance.

Please be aware that whilst the ability to visit care homes is looking to increase, it is still being controlled based on these risk assessments and is subject to the specific circumstances of the care home and those living and working within it. This is likely to mean that the frequency of visits will be limited and/or controlled for some time.

Do I need to take a test to be able to visit my relative?

No, however if you are displaying any symptoms of coronavirus you should not visit the care home, self-isolate and order a test immediately.

You may be asked screening questions upon arrival. These include:

  1. Have you been feeling unwell recently?
  2. Have you had recent onset of a new continuous cough?
  3. Do you have a high temperature? A care home may consider providing a temperature check for all visitors to provide confidence to visitors and to staff.
  4. Have you noticed a loss of, or change in, normal sense of taste or smell?
  5. Have you had recent contact (in the last 14 days) with anyone with COVID-19 symptoms or someone with confirmed COVID-19 – if yes, should you be self-isolating as a family member or as a contact advised to do so by NHS Test and Trace?

How do I travel to the care home?

It is encouraged that you walk to the home or use your own transport where possible.

It might be that some assistance is required to enable visitors who are especially vulnerable to get to the care home. Care homes may consider giving visitors telephone numbers or website information of organisations which can offer advice on safe travel arrangements if required.

What is likely to change when I visit my loved one?

You can expect to see a number of changes but remember they are to keep you and your loved ones safe. These include:

  • Care workers will use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in line with guidance from Public Health England and you are will be asked to wear a mask and/or visor when you are in the building. If you are making close personal contact with a resident you may need to wear PPE which goes beyond a face covering.
  • Care homes with an ‘open door’ policy may have to work towards a more regimented booking system. Ad hoc visits are not advised.
  • Care homes should support NHS Test and Trace by keeping a temporary record (including address and phone number) of current and previous residents, staff and visitors, as well as keeping track of visitor numbers and staff.
  • Visitors should have no contact with other residents and minimal contact with care home staff (less than 15 minutes / 2 metres). Where needed, conversations with staff can be arranged over the phone following an in-person visit

How many people can visit a care home at a time?

To limit risk, where visits do go ahead, this should be limited to a single constant visitor, per resident, wherever possible. This is in order to limit the overall numbers of visitors to the care home and the consequent risk of infection.

Will I need to wash my hands or use hand sanitiser?

Yes, visitors should be reminded and provided facilities to wash their hands for 20 seconds or use hand sanitiser on entering and leaving the home, and to catch coughs and sneezes in tissues and clean their hands after disposal of the tissues.

What happens if I can’t see my family or friend in the care home?

If there is a restriction to visitors in place, alternative ways of communicating between residents and their families and friends should be discussed and offered. The care home should also provide regular updates to residents’ loved ones on their mental and physical health, how they are coping and identify any additional ways they might be better supported, including any cultural or religious needs.

Visits to a Covid-19 positive resident should only be made in essential circumstances (for example, end of life).

Safe Hospital Visiting Piloted Locally

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust is piloting reintroducing visiting safely to some of its inpatient wards in hospitals across Northumberland and North Tyneside.

Working with relatives, the trust is putting in place an appointment system to enable people to visit loved ones on wards at Alnwick Infirmary, Berwick Infirmary, Blyth Community Hospital, Haltwhistle War Memorial Hospital and medicine, care of the elderly and mental health wards at Wansbeck, Hexham and North Tyneside general hospitals.

The relatives of patients in these pilot areas will be contacted to make arrangements to visit if they wish. If anyone has any questions about the pilot, or are unsure whether the ward on which their loved one is staying is part of it, they should contact the ward directly.

Reintroducing visiting at The Northumbria hospital and surgical wards at general hospitals are currently NOT included in the pilot, however, a review is ongoing and the trust aims to expand it to more inpatient areas in due course should it prove safe and workable.

The trust suspended visiting in mid-March to protect its patients and staff and help reduce the spread of coronavirus except in the following circumstances which remain unchanged:

For patients who are receiving end-of-life care
For birthing partners in maternity units
For parents or legal guardians in the children’s unit
At the discretion of the nurse in charge for long-stay patients and those with dementia

There is also currently no visiting to day units, endoscopy, x-ray, oncology areas.

Marion Dickson, executive director for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Protecting our patients and staff is our top priority and while it is not the right time to lift our suspension of visiting completely, we’re committed to working with relatives to safely introduce visiting in pilot areas.

“Our ward teams across Northumberland and North Tyneside are contacting the relatives of patients where visiting is to be allowed to make arrangements. We’d urge people not just to turn up to a ward to visit without first speaking to staff to make an appointment as they will not be allowed in. Anyone with queries should contact the ward directly.

“Whilst our Northumbria hospital and some wards at our general hospitals are excluded from the pilot at this stage, we’d like to reassure people that we are looking at how it is working and plan to include more wards when it is appropriate to do so.”

To keep everyone safe during the pilot, the numbers of visitors on wards at any one time will be limited and visiting will be restricted to up to an hour a day per patient. On arrival on the ward, visitors would need to wash their hands and wear a face covering, gloves and apron throughout their visit. It must also be the same visitor per patient throughout the pilot and visitors will be required to give their contact details to the ward staff.

Arrangements to make iPads available on wards across the trust to facilitate virtual visiting will remain in place. Friends and relatives are also able to stay connected to their loved ones in hospital by ringing 0191 293 4306, available Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Marion added: “We appreciate that it has been difficult for people not being able to visit loved ones in hospital over the last few months and we would like to thank them for their co-operation and understanding.”

Hospital Discharge – Your Experience

To respond to coronavirus, hospitals in Northumberland and the north east had to quickly change. Tell us how this has affected the care you or your loved one has received.

If you’ve been receiving care in hospital there can be lots to think about when you’re getting ready to leave, such as any support you will need to help you manage your health and wellbeing.

During the coronavirus pandemic the usual processes hospitals follow to discharge you from their care changed to help free up beds. Because of this, if you’ve been in hospital recently you should have:

·        been discharged within two hours, once you no longer need hospital care

·        had your care and support needs assessed once you have left hospital

·        been moved to the first available bed in a care home, if you cannot go home

·        had any further care or support you need fully funded by the NHS

While these changes have successfully got people out of hospital and helped the NHS manage the demand created by coronavirus, we don’t know how the new processes are working for both patients, their families and healthcare professionals.


If you or your loved one is currently in hospital, find out what you should expect when being discharged in our advice and information article about leaving hospital.


Why should you share your experiences of care?

NHS and social care staff are doing everything they can to support people through this pandemic, but they need your help to spot issues to make sure everyone receives good care.

We’re working with the British Red Cross to listen to your experiences of leaving hospital, so we can help NHS and social care services understand how the changes brought in during COVID-19 are affecting people’s health and wellbeing – both positively and negatively.

This is why we launched our campaign #BecauseWeAllCare, to encourage everyone to support the NHS recover by providing feedback about health services.

Tell us your views

Take a few minutes to tell us what happened when you or your loved one was discharged from hospital to improve care for everyone. You can also play your part in supporting the NHS to get back on track by sharing our survey with your friends, neighbours and networks.


Want to talk to someone about your experiences? We can provide you with advice and information about local health and care services. Get in touch.


Photographers in the spotlight at Berwick Hospital

Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust:

Photographers from Berwick and the surrounding area now have their work displayed around where the town’s new multi-million-pound hospital is set to be built, on the site of the existing infirmary.

All 27 winning and shortlisted images from Northumbria Healthcare’s photography competition are being showcased on the hoardings surrounding what will become the construction area, if planning permission is granted.

The display comes a month after the trust submitted a planning application to Northumberland County Council for the two-storey integrated hospital, which will accommodate all the existing services and Well Close Medical Group, and assured the community that the £25million earmarked for the development is still available.

Marion Dickson, executive director at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, who is leading the Berwick redevelopment project, said “It’s fantastic to see the images adorn the hoardings where Berwick’s new hospital is set to be built – they look stunning and our staff love them.

“From the outset we really wanted to involve local residents in this process and we hope the selected photographers are pleased to see their work in the spotlight, what talent we have in our area.

“Following the submission of our planning application last month, this is another sign of us moving forward with our plans and we will keep the community up-to-date as things progress over the weeks and months ahead.”

The competition was organised by the trust’s Bright Northumbria charity as part of the organisation’s award-winning healing arts programme which uses art as a therapeutic medium to improve the hospital environment for patients, visitors and staff. It had two categories – iconic images of Berwick and local landscapes and coastlines.

More than 160 images were entered into the competition from a diverse mix of amateur and professional photographers. A panel of NHS staff were guided by master photographer Ikuko Tsuchiya to make the difficult decisions of selection. Ten winning images were selected and 17 short-listed.

Due to the variety of images, the trust wanted to be able to give all shortlisted photographers an opportunity to see their work on display. So, a second exhibition has been added, meaning all 27 images have gone on display on the hoardings.

Selected photographs may also be exhibited in areas of the new hospital when completed.

The hospital’s modern design incorporates sustainability and efficiency in the final choice of materials and will embrace the latest technology in delivering the highest quality of care.

The target completion date for the new hospital is spring 2022.

Share your experiences at 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. All forums take place from 2.00pm – 3.00pm.

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 after the forums 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. If you would like help to set up Zoom on your device please ask.


Online Forums – all take place between 2.00pm and 3.00pm

Wednesday 20 May: Dementia Services

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


Wednesday 3 June: Mental Health Services

Wednesday 10 June: Special Educational Needs and Disabilities

Wednesday 17 June: Maternity Services


Wednesday 1 July: Mental Health Services

Wednesday 8 July: NHS, Health and Social Care Services – any service you’ve used in the last 12 months

Wednesday 15 July: Unpaid Carers and Mental Health Services


Wednesday 12 August: Cancer Services


Wednesday 9 September: Children and Young People’s Services. Are you a voluntary or community organisation working with young people? If so, we’d like you to join us for an open discussion on children and young peoples services, particularly around mental health services.


Wednesday 18 November:  Dementia Services


If you would like to take part in a forum please contact Laura Kane,, or call 03332 408468. We can also help you set up Zoom on your device so please get in touch if you would like some guidance.