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Nurses working together for change in Lambeth

NHS Lambeth CCG is marking International Nurses Day by celebrating the strides taken to help develop nursing in Lambeth.

General practices are at the heart of healthcare in the UK. The team in your general practice cares for you at all stages of life; from pregnancies to making sure our babies and children are growing up healthily, supporting teenagers and adults through difficult times, keeping us well in later life and everything in between.

All the members of the practice team work hard to make sure you are well looked after but there hasn't always been enough appropriately trained nurses and healthcare assistants to meet the needs of patients in our 47 practices.

In Lambeth we have set up a team of nurses to tackle this. The lead nurses work together to make sure that our 100 practice nurses and 35 healthcare assistants (HCAs) get extra training and support to provide top quality care.

Practice nurses and healthcare assistants provide a wide range of services such as health checks, clinics for wound dressings, diabetes, asthma and sexual health and childhood immunisations and travel vaccinations.

Most clinical commissioning groups (groups of clinicians and managers who are responsible for planning and buying most health services) employ one primary care lead nurse to focus on education, supervision and support of nurses and HCAs. In Lambeth, our team of lead nurses work most of the time in clinical practice and spend several hours a week on supporting their nursing colleagues.

Lead nurses Louise Ashwood, Anne Macrae, Paula Marsden and Jen Beattie have many years of experience in primary care. This means the nursing workforce benefits from the mixed clinical interests and experience of the team, as well as their intimate knowledge of the challenges faced in primary care.

The picture of nursing support in Lambeth has changed dramatically since the lead nurse team was established in 2013. One HCA said: "I have seen massive changes in support for HCAs in Lambeth. Lambeth are taking the lead for other boroughs to follow."

There are now 25 per cent more healthcare assistants, three more practices are accepting student nurse placements and eight newly qualified general practice nurses have been placed in practices. All 35 healthcare assistants have completed training to meet the standard level and there are now 38 trained nurse mentors to enable training and supervision of undergraduate nurses, HCAs and practice nurses as they develop their primary care careers.

The lead nurse team arrange training courses on a wide range of topics including mental health, immunisations and cytology (cervical smears).  They also organise mentorship, clinical supervision and support for revalidation, which is a process that nurses must go through every three years to maintain their registration with the Nursing and Midwifery Council.

One practice nurse said: "Clinical supervision has been very useful to me and has made a significant impact in my everyday practice. I see it as something I can rely on for both clinical and emotional support."

Overall feedback on the introduction of the lead nurse team from nurses and HCAs suggested that the nursing and HCA workforce in Lambeth feels more supported and less isolated.

Another healthcare assistant said: "We have never been represented outside of our workplace before. Now we receive information on training and to know we have support outside of the workplace is a great comfort."

CCG Chair, Dr Adrian McLachlan said: "Nurses and healthcare assistants are invaluable members of the general practice team and I am pleased that in Lambeth our nurses and HCAs are now far better supported to provide the excellent care that people in Lambeth expect.

"I'd like to offer a heartfelt thank you to our lead nurse team and all the nurses and healthcare assistants in Lambeth for your dedication and hard work in general practice."

Working together, nurses can make significant changes to training and support in a short period. Louise, Anne, Paula and Jen are now focussing on how they can continue to support our nurses and HCAs by identifying potential nurse leaders of the future, helping practices provide the best possible care to people in Lambeth.

If you are a Lambeth practice nurse or healthcare assistant, visit the information for nurses and healthcare assistants page​​ to find out how you can access the support of the lead nurse team.

More detail on the success of the lead nurse team has been published in academic journal Practice Nursing, volume 27 number 4.