Caroline Wild from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust, talks to Alison Moore on what it meant to her organisation to be awarded the Provider Trust of the Year in the HSJ Awards 2017

Provider trust of the year

No trust is perfect – and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Foundation Trust would not claim to be – but in the judges’ eyes it came close when they awarded it Provider Trust of the Year in the HSJ Awards in 2017.

It was the culmination of a fantastic couple of years for the trust which had been rated outstanding by the Care Quality Commission in August 2016. But the HSJ award was the icing on the cake.

“I really underestimated how excited everyone would be when we won,” says Caroline Wild, deputy director for communications and corporate relations. “It was a long day travelling down to the awards and everyone was a bit jaded and tired. But we were completely blown out of the water when we won.

“We took a really good mix of people to the awards from all across the trust. They saw it as an honour to be involved. Coming back we tried to make it clear that the award was for everyone, not just the board. The trophy has been on tour and lots of people have been really excited about having their photo taken with it!”

We keep learning from other people. There is no one who does everything wonderfully and no one who does everything terribly. We have to be open and that is one of the things which keeps us learning.

The trust works from more than 60 sites across its massive patch but much care is provided to people as close to home as possible. It’s probably best known as a mental health trust but also provides learning disability and neurological care services. It has also developed its research side significantly over the last few years and is known for its service user involvement – including peer support workers.

So what made it a winner last year? “I hope it is the focus we have on providing great services for the people who use them. We have just refreshed our strategy and put providing great care and making the trust a great place to work at the heart of what we want to do,” she says.

“That came out in the judges’ comments – they felt strategy was embedded in everything we do.”

The trust tries to make it easy for staff to do a good job. One of the ways it does this is through good IT which is suitable for remote working (important with a workforce dispersed across a wide area and often working in the community). “When we had the snow recently we had a lot of staff able to work remotely because they were already set up with access to the electronical patient records,” says Ms Wild. “We all had access to Skype for business so meetings could take place by Skype. And we even had a board meeting by telephone conference!”

Staff pulled out all the stops in the snow as well, she adds, with many walking miles to get to work or to deliver urgent medications to patients. Some of the strengths of the trust comes from its strong relations with dedicated staff, who often stay with the trust for a long time.

The trust also has an inspirational leader in John Lawlor. “John is very different and very much more approachable and open than some leaders,” says Ms Wild. “He has been a great voice for mental health in a lot of different ways.”

The trust is often seen as being at the leading edge in mental health and other areas are keen to learn from it. “We are working very closely with other trusts ….our quality improvement team are working with them to share expertise and some of the models we have developed.

“And we keep learning from other people. There is no one who does everything wonderfully and no one who does everything terribly. We have to be open and that is one of the things which keeps us learning.”

What the judges said

The decision to award the provider of the year title was unanimous, with the judges praising the depth of the trust’s embedded strategy and its role as a thought leader in the provider community around aspects such as stigma and in addressing physical health aspects of mental health patients. They commented: “A true exemplar of how focusing on evidence based, values driven and safety focused care complemented with a clear digital strategy has enabled fantastic performance.”

The HSJ Awards 2018 are now open for entries. Click here for more information on the Provider Trust of the Year category or contact Chris Edwards, Awards Director, HSJ.