'It helps our confidence' - the Newcastle NHS training facilities that mirror real hospital wards

Sign saying 'care in progress' at new NHS training facility
The facilities are designed to recreate a real hospital ward, down to the smallest details. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Stepping onto a 'ward' at Newcastle Hospitals' new training facilities, and everything points to being in a genuine medical environment.

There are hand washing and PPE stations, and the curtains round the beds match those used across the city's hospitals.

None of these details are by accident.

In creating two high-tech training centres, the hospital trust has set out to make the clinical areas as realistic as possible.

On the day of our visit, we meet a group of nurses, therapists and radiographers in their first year of professional work after graduating.

Occupational therapist Oliver Maw told me that training here has honed his understanding of what is expected.

He said: "It helps our confidence massively because you can use all the equipment, you get taught how to use all the equipment and you get shown how to use the equipment so you can learn really hands-on."

Courses will be offered to staff at all stages of their careers from standard training to complex procedures. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Training has, until now, taken place elsewhere in Newcastle's hospitals but with around 18,000 members of staff, the trust had outgrown its previous facilities.

Another staff member, Kelly Atkinson, said she appreciates how much the new training environment replicates the real thing.

She explained: "Typically on a day of training we would come in and get changed into our uniforms and our clinical educator would act as a sort of ward manager and allocate us to our departments."

Ms Atkinson continued: "That makes it seem much more like we are thinking on the spot as opposed to just reading and writing because nursing is not at all just reading and writing."

  • The Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust takes in some of the North East's biggest hospitals, including the Royal Victoria Infirmary, the Freeman and Great North Children's Hospital.

  • The trust employs 18,000 people.

  • The new training facilities are based at two centres: one at the Freeman Hospital; the other at a site in the city centre.

  • The aim is to provide training at the new centres for around 10,000 staff members in the first six months.

While some of the exercises take place on mannequins, stand-in patients are also used to create an authentic experience for trainees.

Some of the stand-ins are described as 'well patients', meaning they can draw on authentic medical histories.

For Julie Raine, who has been central to the creation of the new facilities, there is an added benefit.

Until now, some training has taken place in working areas of the city's hospitals, leading to the postponement of a number of clinics and procedures.

Having a dedicated training facility means this will no longer be necessary.

  • Watch Helen Ford's report here.

Ms Raine said that was a huge bonus at a time of such pressure on the health service.

She said: "Previously if we have had to run large-scale events we have had to cancel perhaps some outpatient clinics or repurpose some clinical areas which means that some patients may have been at a disadvantage."

Ms Raine continued: "By using these new facilities it means we can maintain the levels of activity on the main sites, especially given the recovery period post-pandemic it means that all of our efforts are focused on patients."

In time, a replica operating theatre will be added to the facilities.

Not only will the centres be used for standard training, but also to enable experienced staff to learn new and complex procedures as they develop.

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