NHS executives have praised Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust and the Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust as being “ahead of the game” for their innovation in community services.
Sam Sherrington, Head of Community Nursing at NHS England and Improvement, and Andrea Westlake, her deputy, presented to community nurses from both Trusts at Wolverhampton Science Park earlier this month.
They also listened to presentations from Jodie Winfield, Deputy Head of Nursing, Adult Community and Primary Care – Division 3, and Kelly Geffen, Walsall’s Divisional Director of Nursing – Community.
Sam, who reports to Hilary Garratt, Deputy Chief Nursing Officer for NHS England in Chief Nursing Officer Ruth May’s team, has been tasked with developing a national community nursing plan and delivering a community nursing safe staffing tool, all of which was included in her address to staff from both Trusts.
The executives then visited Wolverhampton’s virtual ward and saw how it is delivered at the care navigation centre based at the Science Park, before they travelled to Walsall to visit community nursing staff from South Locality at Jubilee House, followed by the Rapid Response Team and Therapists at Blakenall Village Centre.
Two years into post, Sam, a former district nurse who is responsible for some 86,500 community nurses nationwide, is on a mission to carry out fact-finding visits to all 1,500 community sites in England over the next five years.
So far she has engaged with around 4,500 community nursing staff, and RWT and Walsall were the 50th and 51st venues she has visited.
There are 1,500 community staff across both Trusts and over the course of the day Sam and Andrea spent hours chatting to staff, getting their thoughts about their jobs and the service they provide – and what they would wish for in the future.
Both Sam and Andrea were highly impressed by what they saw, which gave them plenty of food for thought to report back to Ruth May.
“What we saw was something a lot of teams in England would like to replicate,” said Sam. “There is lots to learn from what is being done in Wolverhampton and Walsall.
“Both community directorates are ahead of the game in so much of what they do and if we could replicate what we have seen here throughout the country, that would be brilliant.
“The passion and the enthusiasm in the teams is palpable and there’s a real feeling of the teams being one big family; the staff love what they do and that’s very inspiring for us.
“The voice of the staff has been very powerful and I am very proud of them and it was a wonderful day.”
Kelly, who leads the community directorate in Walsall, presented on Walsall Together – the partnership of health, social, housing, voluntary and community sector organisations – and the Community Division, of which South Locality is a part.
She said: “Early on in my student days I knew a nursing career in the community was for me, but having someone like Sam come and share the national agenda with our team is really inspirational.
“The energy in the room was electric, with staff feeling a buzz in the air long after Sam’s visit. Staff got opportunity to talk with Sam about why they love community nursing and how we can promote the multiple career pathways available to staff.
“We are seeing a real move towards community with the national agenda looking at how we can bring care closer to home and we are privileged to be part of that.”
Sam believes there is a positive culture running through the leadership of community directorates which has empowered teams and individuals to have autonomy.
“The leaders are very proud of their teams and a healthy culture has been created which has enabled staff to feel confident in their decision making,” she added.
“Sometimes giving people permission to innovate can be scary, but they have embraced it to the extent where you wonder what more they can do.”
Andrea added: “The teams here are taking a much more holistic approach which is really great to hear. What the staff are doing is outstanding.”
Walsall’s Associate Director for Allied Health Professions (AHPs) Matt Craven said: “The staff here are really keen to make things better and drive change and it was so valuable to share our thoughts with Sam and Andrea.”