Blog: Spotlight on mental health and care services

In her regular blog, our new Chief Executive, Andrea Sutcliffe, reflects on her visit to Wales as part of her commitment to getting a better sense of the differing health and care landscapes across the UK

I’ve been determined in my first few weeks to get out and about to see colleagues in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland so I can get a better sense of the differing health and care landscapes.

As a four country regulator, it is really important to me that we listen and learn from colleagues across the UK about how the work we do impacts on the lives of those we regulate and the public. 

Visit to Wales

So, last Friday, I made my way through the snow to Wales. I was a tad worried that the weather might affect the trip but fortunately it was okay – though I did get up ridiculously early to make sure I had enough time to walk to the station if the buses couldn’t get up the hill out of Crouch End (which has been known to happen!).

Ali Neyle, our head of strategic communications, and I were safe and sound on the train when Ruth Walker, one of our Council members, rang to check in as sadly she was having to dig her car out so she could meet us at our first stop, the mental health service at the University Hospital Llandough in Cardiff. Fortunately she made it and I was really grateful she was able to be there. We were also joined by another Council member, Lorna Tinsley which I really appreciated.

Mental Health Services

Many people’s views of nursing are shaped by the dramas we watch on TV, so are focused on acute hospitals, especially accident and emergency departments (I used to joke I learnt all my clinical knowledge from watching the 1990’s American series ER). But thousands of nurses on our register work in very different settings and I wanted to make sure my first visits out and about covered all four countries and the breadth of the nursing, midwifery and nursing associate experience. Hence the visit to a mental health service.

I have to say, the staff we met including sisters, charge nurses and senior leaders, were really pleased that we were there. Mental health nurses don’t get the recognition they deserve. But I know from my professional and personal life what an incredibly important contribution to people’s lives they make. 

We had some great discussions – including a reflection on “what does the NMC do for me?” Their view of us are heavily influenced by fear of the fitness to practise process and worrying that a mistake could lead to them losing their registration. We talked about the changes we are planning in fitness to practise but it was clear to me that we have a communication challenge on our hands to ensure everyone knows what we are trying to do. They were also interested in what more the NMC could do to support them in their roles. This is all helpful insight to inform the development of our strategy for 2020 to 2015.

Care home

Like mental health nurses, nurses working in the social care sector often feel left out of important discussions about nursing. Just like mental health nurses, they do an incredible job and are a vital part of the profession we must nurture and develop if we are to properly support people with complex needs throughout their lives. In my old job at the Care Quality Commission this was a subject close to my heart (see this blog "Where have all the nurses gone?" from 2015) and I wanted to carry that focus into the NMC too.

With Gill Knight from the Chief Nursing Officer for Wales’ team, Ali and I visited Ty Penrhos Care Home run by Haford Care. We had the best time!! The management team, nursing staff and students in training we met were so passionate about what they do and were great role models. We were able to chat with residents and my favourite moment was meeting Olga, now a resident in the home but a nurse in her working life. She had some hilarious tales to share and had us in stitches.

Wales and integration

It was also good to chat with partners from the local university and Health Board who are working closely with the home to support the training and education of the next generation of nurses and meet the health needs of the people living there. This reflects some of the ambitions in the Welsh Government publication Healthier Wales: Our plan for health and social care which sets out a long term future vision of a ‘whole system approach to health and social care’. This along with a wide range of other subjects was an important topic when I met the CNO for Wales, Jean White and two of her team, Gill Knight and Karen Jewell at lunch time.

Where to next?

Northern Ireland is my next stop so I’ll be sure to report back in next week’s blog on the visit. I will be also making my way to the North of England at the end of this month, so watch this space.


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