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Recognising the huge difference you make

This week patient and carer advocate, Tommy Whitelaw, will share some inspirational stories with nursing, midwifery and care staff at Barts Health NHS Trust highlighting the huge impact they have for people and patients in their care. The chief nurse previews his visit:

Many will be familiar with the fantastic work of Thomas Whitelaw, known commonly as ‘Tommy’ across the country; but always as ‘Thomas’ to his mum Joan, who had vascular dementia and sadly passed away in 2012.

Thomas has become a well-respected patient and carer advocate, and is the UK Project Lead for Dementia Carer Voices, Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland.

Tommy regularly speaks to health and care staff about the distressing challenges he experienced when caring for his mum. He has taken that very personal first-hand knowledge to explain how an inequity of service can have a devastating effect on families and carers, to thousands of staff across the country; while at the same time highlighting the incredible difference that great care also made to him and his mother at a very difficult time when their lives were affected by dementia.

Colleagues attending those talks are invited to reflect on how they can and will lead change and make a pledge of their own practice. Pledge trees have been created in hospitals, care homes, universities and workplaces all across the country and these also offer a reflective place for frontline staff.

Tommy says as a result of his visits and talks with staff, more than 20,000 pledges have been made across the country and as these numbers increased, recognised that the pledges needed a formal structure around them to ensure that, what were obviously good intentions, turned in to something which could be clearly identified, addressed, measured and turned into a purposeful action.

After conversations with the senior nursing team at NHS England it was agreed that the national framework for nursing, midwifery and care staff ‘Leading Change, Adding Value’ (LCAV) could offer a solution to formally ensuring that these pledges made a difference, and importantly could be shared elsewhere to spread good practice. Tommy was delighted that a partnership was established last year linking his work with the LCAV framework.

The framework has been used in various ways to help turn pledges into excellent practice, many of which can be found on the recently published LCAV Atlas of Shared Learning, a growing collection of case studies that clearly illustrate and quantify the contribution of nursing, midwifery and care staff, demonstrating the delivery of the Five Year Forward View (FYFV) and other national, regional and local policy initiatives.

Since starting his talks and visits across the country, Tommy has spoken at 750 events with 150,000 members of staff across health and care, all of whom are making a huge difference to the care of the patients, individuals and populations.

This week, he will be co-leading a series of visits to all sites across Barts Health NHS Trust with me, visiting hundreds of staff who want to make a difference. Sites that will be visited include the historic St Bartholmew’s Hospital, the Royal London Hospital, Newham Hospital and Whipps Cross Hospital.

We will be encouraging staff to think about how they can use the LCAV framework to identify unwarranted variation in practice and make a pledge to start to make those changes that improve outcomes, experiences and use of resources for patients and those we care for.

Tommy’s visits will contribute and add value to some of the fantastic work already taking place at Barts Health NHS Trust in identifying and addressing unwarranted variation and aligns with our ‘Getting to good and outstanding – next steps for safe and compassionate care improvement plan’.

An example from this I would like to highlight, led by specialist chemotherapy nurses at St Bartholomew’s is the introduction of a new 24-hour advice line, which has been recommended as a national standard of care. Any patient having chemotherapy at any of our hospitals is encouraged to call the hotline number at any time if they feel unwell. Patients speak direct to a nurse, who will ask them to describe their symptoms and decide on a course of action. This means that any illnesses or infections are picked up quickly and dealt with immediately, leading to better patient outcomes, experiences and use of resources.

Tommy’s visits will also help to further empower and inspire staff to recognise the changes they can make, turning their intentions into purposeful actions.  My job and that of senior colleagues at Barts Health NHS Trust will be to make it as simple as possible for staff who make pledges to achieve their ambition.

At Barts Health NHS Trust, our nursing, midwifery and allied health professionals priorities are linked to each of the ten commitments from Leading Change, Adding Value and in doing so, embed LCAV as every day practice for all our staff. At Barts Health NHS Trust, we are delighted to be working with Tommy and the LCAV operational team.

Thomas Whitelaw

Thomas Whitelaw is the UK Project Engagement Lead – Dementia Carer Voices.

For five years he was a full-time carer for his late mother, Joan, who had Vascular Dementia, and in 2011 Tommy undertook a walk around Scotland’s towns and cities to collect hundreds of life story letters detailing the experiences of individuals caring for a loved one living with dementia.

Since then, he has engaged with thousands of carers through his ‘Tommy on Tour’ blog and as UK Project Engagement Lead with the Health and Social Care Alliance’s Dementia Carer Voices Project, conducting frequent talks to health and social care professionals and carer organisations across Scotland, to raise awareness of the impact of dementia on families and the importance of empowering carers in carrying out their difficult but vital role.

Tommy’s passion for his work and the Dementia Carer Voices Project has not gone unnoticed. He was the winner of the ‘Age Scotland Jess Barrow Award’ in 2013; Finalist Campaigner of the year 2013 for ‘The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards’, won the NHSGGC Chairman’s Ambassador Award 2013 and in 2015, Tommy was awarded the ‘British Citizen’s Medal for Services to Healthcare’ in recognition of his work to raise awareness of dementia and promote a fuller understanding of the carer journey.

Tommy was shortlisted as a finalist for the Kate Granger awards 2016 and received an Honorary Master of the Open University for Health, Social Care, Education and Policy making influence.

Groups and boards Tommy represents the project and the ALLIANCE on are: Fair for all Board Member North Ayrshire Council, Girvan Community Hospital Dementia Friendly Steering Group Member, Member of Scottish Government Dementia Strategy 2016-2019 Expert Advisory Group and NHS Education Scotland Promoting Excellence Dementia Programme Board Member.

Caroline Alexander

Caroline has significant nursing leadership experience at director level across a breadth of portfolios – healthcare provision, commissioning and system leadership.

She was director of nursing and therapies for Tower Hamlets PCT and then director of nursing and quality For NHS ELC, then NHS NEL clusters of primary care trusts. Caroline was regional chief nurse for NHS England in London for three years before taking up her current post as Chief Nurse for Barts Health.

She graduated as a nurse in 1987 from Edinburgh University (BSc/RGN) and has an MSc in Nursing Studies from South Bank University. Caroline was a 2008 Florence Nightingale Leadership Scholar and is a Visiting Professor at Bucks New University.

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