The University of Sunderland is celebrating its involvement in a programme to improve care for older people across Sunderland and South Tyneside now shortlisted for a prestigious Nursing Times Award. 

The Older People’s Improvement Collaborative (TOPIC) programme launched by South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), is a collaboration that has been running for 12 months, designed to improve care and experience for older people and the staff caring for those older patients.

TOPIC was originally set up by the Trust to address concerns around recruitment and retention of staff within this sector, making improvements in key areas such as staff support, development and education, essential patient care and patient experience.

However, the project has developed much further in both scope and ambition. As a result, TOPIC’s entry into this year’s Nursing Times Awards has been shortlisted in the Care of OIder People category and the winner will be announced at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on October 27.


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The awards bring together the nursing community to shine a light on the brightest talent in the profession and recognise those making nursing innovative, patient-focused, and inclusive.

The announcement is further good news for the University, which was recently shortlisted as University of the Year, in this year’s THE – Times Higher Education – annual awards.

The University was tasked with supporting the project through its education provision, co-designing a short course – Undergraduate Certificate of Achievement in Care of the Older Person, aimed at registered health professionals. The course covers how we age and the issues we face, including some of the common conditions seen in older people and health promotion to support ‘wellness’. Cultural bias and personal values are also explored as well as improving experiences and care for older adults through evidence-based practice. More than 40 Registered Nurses have now accessed the course.

Programme Leader for the course, Karen Giles, said: “We are delighted to be part of this collaboration, and have seen the far-reaching impact TOPIC has had on older patients across the community. To be shortlisted for a Nursing Times Awards demonstrates how important this work is and is great recognition for the Trust, following such a tough year during the Covid-19 pandemic

“The team we work with has a real passion for what they do and are committed to delivering high-quality education which makes a real difference to patient care. Our Patient carer involvement participants are also part of the programme delivery  

“We are looking forward to continuing the exciting developments with the Trust over the coming years.” 

TOPIC Shortlisted For A Prestigious National Nursing Award
Diane Palmer

Diane Palmer, Deputy Director of Nursing, Patient Safety and Quality South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are thrilled that Nursing Times has recognised the achievements of our staff, particularly during these very challenging times and we’re grateful for the partnership working with the University of Sunderland. TOPIC has provided an opportunity for us to focus on the staff and patients in our wards for older people and now through events such as the Nursing Times Awards we’ve an opportunity to highlight the innovations and improvements we’re achieving.” 


Alongside developments in education for staff, other aspects of ward-based projects to improve patient care include:

  • Improving mouth care offered to patients which included awareness-raising through training and information, and development of a training video for staff and sourcing of specific mouth care products.
  • Reducing the incidence of medicines being prescribed but not administered.
  • The implementation of #Endpjparalysis, which focuses on preventing de-conditioning in patients, by encouraging and assisting them to get out of bed, dressed and moving.
  • Rise and Shine Draw, which is a bit of fun to reduce boredom, with images designed by local artist Bob Olley.

The improvement work was initially set up for 12-18 months, but following the success and acknowledging additional work still to be done, the Trust has agreed to support the programme for a further 18 months.

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