Supporting people in hard times

Judith GriffinJudith is Chief Executive of NHS Blackburn with Darwen. Judith trained as a Nurse Cadet in the 70s, becoming a Community Nurse, Health Visitor and then a Midwife. She is leading plans to integrate health and social care commissioning to tackle health statistics and work, solving longstanding poor health and health inequalities by establishing a pioneering NHS Care Trust Plus organisation.

To get the best out of our workforce we need to support staff and acknowledge that we all have issues outside of work that will impact on our day to day lives.  This is more important than ever in the difficult financial times we are experiencing.

In Blackburn with Darwen we are just launching a service that will give every member of staff and all members of their families access to 24 hour advice, support and counselling on any issue, from advice on money worries to practical information on parenting.

Too often care can be seen to start and end at the door to the hospital, treatment room or surgery. Even in people’s own homes when we feel under pressure and are rushing to the next visit we may end up thinking just about the treatment rather than the person we are caring for and all their concerns.

The things that we worry about as individual members of staff are often the things that worry patients and members of the public – a good education for our children, having enough information to make sensible choices about our lifestyles or choosing the best services to meet our needs. We want homes that are safe and warm, sufficient income to pay the bills, and to live in communities where we feel safe and are valued as individuals with equal rights.

When people do not have these things, we know inequalities occur. Those who live in deprived communities, in poorer houses or have neither the skills nor the means to get the best out of services will die earlier than those who are better educated, live in nice houses or can make their voice heard. In the NHS people who are disabled, who have mental health problems or who are unable to communicate their needs will often not get the same access or standards of care as others.

I know many nurses and midwifes share my outrage that people die earlier or live lives in greater ill health just because of where they are born or the lack of opportunities available to them.

Each day every one of us will encounter someone who has some form of disadvantage and thus experiences a ‘lesser’ standard of care. By seeing others in the context of the lives they live outside their contact with the NHS and being prepared to advocate and stand up for patients who need a greater level of support or care every one of us, each and every day, can start to address inequalities and ensure everyone receives the care and compassion we all expect and need.

One Response to “Supporting people in hard times”

  1. I agree with Judith´s points and share her sense of outage at the health inequalities gap which has widened, despite huge investment over the past decade. Nurses, especially those in primary care roles are in key positions to narrow this gap by taking a holistic approach to care. Routine interventions, with the outcomes monitored across the care pathway provides accurate data on effectivemness.
    In contrast, many ´quick fix´ high profile projects have been costly, of short duration and limited value.
    Other national campaigns, such as quit smoking and healthy schools have been highly successful in yielding positive health outcomes especially for disadvantaged groups.
    Individual nurses can add value to their consultations with less able patients, but they are up against a system where time targets and throughput dominate over quality. Nurses need to use their professional knowledge and skills to ensure that longer appointments and more follow-up consultations are available for disadvantaged patients. The recent addition of QOF (quality points) for GP practices to carry out health checks for patients with disabilities is a good start.