In March I used this blog to share some thoughts on the importance of staying connected to the front line; the importance of thanking our staff for what they do and for giving up their time to talk to me; the importance of listening to the people who use our services and hearing their views and stories; and the opportunity to share ideas with services and between services. I want to use this blog to share reflections on my recent experiences and to do this each quarter.
I find these visits invaluable to:-
Experience the huge diversity of public health, health and social care services
So far this spring and summer I have been fortunate to see services supporting people of all ages and in many settings, from the blood transfusion service, to acute and specialist hospitals and nursing and care homes. I have had the opportunity to meet with people from many organisations in the NHS and with local authorities, with primary care and many organisations providing services to local communities. In every case I met teams of people determined to provide services that support people locally, and for some services nationally, to have the best possible health and wellbeing and through principles of prevention compassion and integration.
See and share new ways of working
There are many places where teams are already focusing these aims through strengthening partnerships to meet local priorities. One visit demonstrated strong working between CCG, local government and the third-sector based on ‘actively engaging patients' and ‘building on and supporting the strengths of local communities,’ including working towards a ‘Dementia Friendly Town’ with the Dementia Alliance. Another visit included time at a Healthy Living Centre – one at the heart of a community- both in geography and also attachment and ownership. Local people are involved in what is provided and how, and professionals across all agencies are improving joint working to provide services in ways which improve access, experience and outcomes.
Meet staff and future staff
I have also had lots of contact with staff and students and it has been a pleasure to hear about their experience and aspirations. It was especially interesting to discuss with some public health practitioner students how they are using their studies to provide health promoting services to local people and to hear from a number of nursing students that they feel there should be more about prevention earlier in their training!
Understand what it is like to use services
Listening to people who use our services if vital to getting services right and understanding what will happen if we don’t. I met one young couple with a first baby, no family support and newly moved into the area. They told me ‘the clinic and the health visitors have helped us so much – if they weren’t here we would be so worried and take him to the emergency room’.
Keep in touch with nursing midwifery and health visiting practice and developments
It is so important to stay in touch – indeed central to my role in advising and leading policy. We know the evidence for a healthy start in life and that health visitors and school nurses have vital roles and it was a real privilege and pleasure to visit a clinic and a school recently. Observing the expert and confidence-building support from a health visitor to nervous first time parents and to confident third timers and participating in a year-six sex education class and seeing the way in which school health team engaged this young, mixed group in such a matter-of-fact informative and innovative way, demonstrated those key roles in action very impressively.
It is fun too!
The picture below shows me participating in a group to help with early communication skills – I am taking part in a group at a Children’s Centre. Having wrongly called the caterpillar a snake, I am making amends by communicating that caterpillars turn into butterflies!