Newcastle Hospitals’ Community Nurse crowned a ‘Queen’s Nurse’

Fiona Cook, a Community Nurse at the Newcastle Hospitals specialising in the care of patients with Tuberculosis (TB), has been given the prestigious title of Queen’s Nurse by The Queen’s Nursing Institute (QNI). The QNI is dedicated to improving the care of people in their homes.

Fiona, who has been a qualified nurse for 22 years and worked as a Community Nurse in Newcastle for ten years, is one of only 79 Community Nurses out of some 4,000 put forward, who received this year’s honour. She received the much respected accolade in recognition of the dedication and commitment she has shown towards the patients she cares for in the community. 

Fiona says: “I’m surprised and a bit overawed to receive this title. I love my job and can honestly say I look forward to coming in every day. I find my work challenging and extremely rewarding, and to hear the lovely comments that patients had made about how I help them is really gratifying. The whole experience has given me a huge boost and I feel even more proactive and energised than ever before!”

Fiona Cook with her 'Queen's Nurse' certificate

The incidence of TB in the North of Tyne area is relatively high in urban with Newcastle at 10 cases per 100,000 population, and low in rural Northumberland at 1 case per 100,000. Overall, the incidence is lower than other parts of the country such London with 40 to 50 cases per 100,000 population, depending on the particular borough.

TB can be a misunderstood disease leading to stigma and fear.  However, TB is a curable disease if it is diagnosed and treated in the early stages. Fiona and fellow TB Community Nurse, Gary Holden, manage a caseload of on average 80 patients annually in the North of Tyne Area.

The nursing and medical team are a well-respected and established source of advice for health professionals in the region and beyond. They also work on the essential preventative measures including screening and contact tracing in a wide range of community settings. The team have seen a rise in cases in recent years and provide education to healthcare professionals and other co-workers to help them to understand the disease and its implications, and most importantly, to support those affected.  The Newcastle team have a proactive approach which is essential in limiting the development of TB in the community.

Fiona says: “There is a lack of understanding about TB which can lead to feelings of uncertainty and fear. People mostly think about pulmonary TB which means it’s in the lungs, but TB can affect many other parts of the body such as the spine and the bladder. It can also affect children and we make sure that all children have their BCG jabs if they have been missed for some reason.”

Fiona and Gary provide a service for both adults and children in the hospital and community which includes screening to everyone who has been in contact with someone diagnosed with TB. As it is curable, treatment can be started straight away and ensuring that patients complete the prescribed course of medication is a crucial part of the role.

Fiona explains: “It is important to me to offer each patient the care they need based on individual requirements with no view to what or where the person comes from. We see international students and workers who come from countries with a known high incidence of the disease and screen them for TB or any other infectious disease.”

Having been at the award ceremony, I’ve realised that the service we offer for people with TB in the community is really quite unique. We are extremely lucky to have such supportive colleagues at the Royal Victoria Infirmary – Dr Chris Stenton, other Chest Physicians and Infectious Diseases Team in particular. We work very closely together and I think this is the secret to our success. I’m very proud to be a TB Nurse here in Newcastle and to be providing a ‘Queen’s Nurse Service!”

Helen Lamont, Nursing and Patient Services Director is also very proud of Fiona and says: “This is a fantastic personal achievement for Fiona, and I know that her many colleagues in both health and social care, as well as the many  local voluntary sectors she engages with, will join me in congratulating her for this much deserved accolade.

And of course we – as Fiona’s employers - are delighted that one of our very own Community Nurses has been commended by the Queen’s Nursing Institute. Her achievements, and the national recognition they have brought, represents everything the nursing profession at the Newcastle Hospitals is about – providing “Healthcare at its very best – with a Personal Touch”.

Crystal Oldman, Chief Executive of the QNI said, ‘Congratulations are due to Fiona for her success. Community nurses operate in an ever more challenging world and our role is to support them as effectively as we can. The QN title is a key part of this and we would encourage other community nurses to apply.’


For more information contact Lynn Watson, Marketing Projects Lead on 0191 223 1543 or at lynn.watson@nuth.nhs.uk

Notes to Editors:

The title of Queen’s Nurse is open to community nurses with more than three years’ experience. Managers and patients provide feedback about applicants, which is assessed along with their application.

The Queen’s Nursing Institute is a registered charity founded in 1887. We believe in the best possible nursing care for people at home. We work with the public, nurses and decision makers to ensure that good quality nursing is available to everyone, when they need it.

Fiona developed the role of the TB key worker in the community which led to patients with TB having direct access to a nurse with specialist knowledge of the disease. Fiona was able to communicate sensitively and effectively and work with patients, sometimes over a long period. Fiona developed her skills working with families who have young children with a new diagnosis TB, following up their care with Paediatricians (senior child healthcare experts) in the Great North Children’s Hospital’s Outpatient Clinic. Fiona has a creative and pragmatic approach to her work and is tenacious in ensuring that patients on her caseload receive the best possible care. This is apparent in the patient testimony from Stephen.

Key Stats:

  • a total of 7,892 cases of TB were notified in the UK in 2013, an incidence of 12.3/100,000
  • overall numbers of TB cases in the UK have declined 11.6% in the past two years, due to a small decline in numbers and rates in the non-UK born population
  • overall numbers and rates in the UK born population have not declined in the past decade, although rates in the UK born population under 15 years have reduced in the past five years
  • as in previous years, almost three quarters of TB cases (73%) occurred among people born outside the UK; only 15% of these were recent migrants (diagnosed within two years of entering the UK)
  • TB remains concentrated in the most deprived populations; in 2013, 70% of cases were resident in the 40% most deprived areas, nearly half (44%) of cases were not in employment and 10% had at least one social risk factor (history of alcohol or drug misuse, homelessness or imprisonment)
  • more than a quarter (28%) of patients with pulmonary TB started treatment more than four months after symptom onset, and the proportion of cases with a delay of more than four months has increased slightly in the past 3 years
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