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hope exchangePic caption: Kaisa Haatainen, Iris Leite and Emma Shipley at the Trust's recent board meeting at Lumley Castle Hotel in Chester-le-Street

COUNTY Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has welcomed two healthcare professionals from Portugal and Finland as part of an exchange programme aimed at improving health care across Europe.

  Iris Leite, a finance manager at Hospital de Magalhaes Lemos in Porto, Portugal and Kaisa Haatainen, a patient safety manager at Kuopio University Hospital in Finland have spent three weeks with the Trust as part of the Hope International Exchange Programme.

 It is the first time County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has taken part in the programme, which has been running for more than 40 years, and this year is looking at patient safety. 160 healthcare personnel from across Europe are involved in the programme, with 16 visiting the UK.

 The aim of the exchange is to promote improvements in the health of citizens throughout Europe, high standards of hospital care and to foster efficiency with humanity in the organisation and operation of healthcare services.

 Kaisa, who has been blogging about her visit, writing about everything from the experience of working within a hospital in the UK, to the friendliness of the people she has met in the North East, as well as the terrible weather. She said: "The main thing I have found has been how concentrated the hospitals here are on quality and patient safety and how the patient experience is central to everyone's work."

 Iris added, "I think I have learned so much from this visit and through working so closely with people across County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust I have learnt about how the hospitals here work, how they plan, monitor and report. I want to go home and look at how we can improve things and do things better."

 Emma Shipley, Associate Director of HR and Organisation Development, said, "We were very keen to get involved in the Hope programme, because it adds to the work we are doing within the Trust and it's great to be able to  share best practice in healthcare across Europe.

 "Iris and Kaisa have been working with people from across the Trust, in corporate services, clinical, front line staff, as well as our directors, so it has been really beneficial for them, as well as us. It was an opportunity for us to learn from them, to hear about how other countries approach patient safety and to see what we could take from that to improve the way we provide services."

 Iris and Kaisa will meet in London with the other delegates who have been looking at patient safety in the UK, ahead of a conference at The Hague along with all 160 participants from across Europe, when they will give their findings and discuss their experiences.

 County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is one of the largest integrated care providers in England, serving a population of around 600,000 people across County Durham, Darlington, North Yorkshire, the Tees Valley and South Tyneside. The Trust brings together hospital, community services and health and wellbeing services to provide high quality and seamless care for patients.


'Every aspect of my emergency care was dealt with quickly, efficiently and professionally with full explanations and compassion from all staff involved'.

Patient, Emergency Department, Darlington Memorial Hospital