As Chief Nursing Officer I have leadership responsibility for nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals and therapists, and also nurses working in the care sector. This role also has statutory functions such as safeguarding, continuing healthcare, and being a Caldicott guardian, which means I’m responsible for protecting people’s health information.
The workforce I am responsible for plays a key role in delivering care. A happy, respected, thriving workforce delivers better care, so I am very involved in initiatives such as the living wage, access to education and training and retention of staff.
I also work with the People’s Board which brings together all aspects of the workforce across the ICS and looks at how we can improve things, such as how to attract the best people and support them when they’re in post. We also work with our local communities to recruit people from our boroughs, because the evidence shows that if people live and work in the same area, their commitment is greater.
Keeping people safe
We have a legal responsibility to keep people safe, whether that is in care, or generally. There have been many incidents reported in the media across the UK, where things have gone wrong, and we can all learn from these. We have a joined-up safeguarding approach with other agencies, including the police, local authorities and education to see how best to identify people at risk, work together with communities to educate people, and also take action when people raise concerns.
Violence against women and girls is a huge issue, whether it is domestic violence or forced marriage. We work with local leaders to see how we can better understand some of the issues that drive these behaviours, and also with other agencies to make sure we have information for people and a safe place to disclose any problems that they’re having.
Talking to each other in ways we weren’t before
Being part of the ICS means we can’t just think about things in silos, which has often been an issue in health. Being part of the same system means we have to talk to each other in ways we weren’t before. There are huge opportunities to find out what is important to other agencies, who have a different experience and understanding to people like me, coming from a purely health background. From my perspective that’s one of the key issues – making sure that I engage with all aspects of the ICS.
We are also doing more work with people and communities to really understand what they want, and developing services based on this. If you give communities the permission, support and maybe funding to go off and do something for themselves, the results are often incredible.
Quality of care and services
Another aspect of my role is quality of care and services. We have just introduced something called a system quality group that brings together all partners from health, but also regulators like the Care Quality Commission, and Healthwatch. There’s a real transparency and a willingness to engage and share learning across the system, which I can honestly say I have not seen before. You might hear about good practice in one area that you then want to try in your area. There is an opportunity to reach out and develop new relationships.
Helping people have better ownership of their own health and wellbeing
This year happens to be my 40th year in the NHS and what has always driven me is to make a difference, whether it is for one person or 1000 people. If we can facilitate people to have better ownership of their own health and wellbeing, then that to me is what will make the difference. I genuinely believe it can be totally empowering for people who won’t necessarily have that empowerment in any other aspect of their life.
I’m a midwife by background, and when you work with pregnant women, they’re often focused on being healthy for their unborn child, rather than themselves. And then when they are no longer pregnant, their mindset changes and they stop thinking about their health. You have this key moment, this short period of time, to support people, to help them think about what they need to do for themselves. That’s something I’m passionate about.
My other passion is focusing on inequalities and outcomes for people. Again, to use the example of maternity services. If you are a Black woman, then you’re four times more likely to die in childbirth. How can that be the case in this day and age? I am really, really passionate about improving some of those outcomes across the board.