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Meet the Nurse of the Year shortlist: Birley Health Centre nursing team

Meet the Nurse of the Year shortlist: Birley Health Centre nursing team

We caught up with the Nurse/Nursing Team of the Year Award shortlist ahead of this year’s General Practice Awards ceremony to be held on 8 December in London.

The seventh and final entry under the spotlight from this year’s shortlist of seven is the nursing and healthcare team at Birley Health Centre in Sheffield.

The seven-strong team, led by Dawn Varney, prides itself in putting patients at the heart of everything it does. Examples of the staff going the extra mile included delivering extra Covid and flu clinics, not just for outpatients but also for local practices struggling with capacity. The team also arranged the use of a council bus for patients struggling to get to and from practice.

The Sheffield practice itself registered its best year for the Quality of Outcomes Framework (QOF), due in no small part to the nursing team. Cervical screening, foot checks and baby vaccinations targets were all ‘smashed’ thanks to the dedication and care of staff.

Entry highlights

Nurse lead, Ms Varney, is described by the team as a ‘natural born leader’. Leading by example and from the front, she has established regular wellbeing chats with the team, setting up schedules that fit both personnel and operations, and taking a novel approach to appraisals. She also set up monthly face-to-face meetings with the network team, leading positive changes in areas such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and represents the practice and network in discussions across the local integrated care board.

Ms Varney’s colleague Karen Howsham is the lead for hypertension and the duo have taken the vast majority of work in that area from the GPs. Ms Howsham is nurse prescriber and takes care of follow-ups, including titrating the medicines – with Dr Charles Heatley, clinical director, on hand for advice and guidance. The team’s approach has seen the practice register marked improvements in QOF indicators for the detection and management of hypertension.

Another challenge the Birley team has grasped has been improving the practice’ relationship with the pharmacy located next door. Following a ‘breakdown in communication’ over who was responsible following patient complaints over long queues at the pharmacy, practice manager Sam Fellowes suggested monthly meetings for the respective teams to discuss solutions over tea and biscuits.

As a result, visits were arranged for each team to see how systems worked at both the practice and the pharmacy, ending a culture of blame and leading to a greater understanding between the parties.

The practice and pharmacy now work in tandem and are seen as one entity by patients. The culture is now so friendly that the two teams are arranging a combined Christmas party!

What they said

It is about accountability, mutual trust, working as a team and someone to drive things,’ said practice manager Mr Fellowes.

‘Every practice needs a Karen,’ he added, in reference to the hard work of nurse lead Ms Varney.

Last year, Wales-based general practice nurse Janette Morgan won the Practice Nursing Award after demonstrating her impact on chronic disease management in her locality.

See here for more information about this year’s General Practice Awards and the gala dinner and ceremony, which will be at the Novotel London West on Friday 8 December.


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