Why I love working at the AHSN NENC

10th December 2019 - By Professor Julia Newton

I joined the AHSN NENC as its Medical Director 2 years ago just as we were beginning a new license and a new way of delivering national health programmes directed by the central team.  Every so often I like to reflect on where my journey has taken me – so this December with Christmas approaching and a new way of working on the horizon for 2020 I had a good old reminisce about what we have done over the first 2 years of my time with the AHSN NENC.


I inherited a number of programmes from my marvellous predecessor Oliver James, so we weren’t really starting with a blank piece of paper. The AHSN’s were working more as a network of 15 and there was the drive to adopt and spread a set of 7 nationally mandated programmes. We were already ahead of the curve with some of these such as atrial fibrillation and Escape Pain – so making those more visible and reinforcing the project management support were relatively easy. I’m delighted that both of these programmes have flown and provided huge benefits for the people of NENC. We have achieved our targets with both of them, reducing pain in those with arthritis and preventing strokes by identifying and treating people with atrial fibrillation.


There were 3 medicines national programmes to implement some of which were more of a challenge than others. PINCER really required bringing together teams from across the region to work collaboratively, something that I am really proud to say we do super well at the AHSN NENC. TCAM needed the winning of hearts and minds and polypharmacy needed a sprinkle of funding to grow some regional activity. All have been amazingly successful, reached targets and beyond and are delivering benefits for people in our region day in day out.


Often in NENC you just find people are quietly getting on with doing the right thing. That was the case with Faecal Calprotectin. The Northern Cancer Alliance were adopting a pathway for lower gut symptoms and we hitched a ride on their connections, expertise and enthusiasm – again a great team to work with.


We have probably spent about half of our time on delivering the national programmes and 50% working with our regional stakeholders to deliver programmes that are important to our health system. We’ve supported a team of GP’s to scope out a process for making it easier for clinicians out of hospital to find the right guidelines to follow. We’ve worked with colleagues to promote ways that primary care can collate information from its records about those who might need treatments to prevent problems like atrial fibrillation and osteoporosis (you know who you are!). We’ve supported the Virtual Recovery College, a Suicide Prevention Project and Trauma Informed Care. We have reviewed the case notes of almost 1 million people to see whether they would benefit from bone strengthening medicines to prevent fractures and over 60,000 to see whether they should be on better inhaler treatment. Our Frailty Network (ICare) brings people together to improve care for our frail older population and Our Patient Safety Collaborative creates connections and communities that enhance the care we deliver in our region focussed upon making it the safest it can be. The list goes on …..


A huge amount has been learnt from our experiences adopting and spreading these programmes. Moving into 2020 we have our very own Lipids/Familial Hypercholesterolaemia programme which has grown from work done right here in NENC and will be spread nationally over the next 3 years.

This makes me really proud to know that every day we are changing lives – here in NENC but also nationally.

I’ve had a ball and want to thank all of those who are on this marvellous journey with me. Bring on 2020… there’s more to do…

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