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Friday, 01 August 2014

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North Cumbria’s new nursing chief aiming to improve standards

Gail Naylor hopes experience, a common-sense approach and willingness to be hands-on can help her improve nursing in north Cumbria.

Gail Naylor photo
Gail Naylor, front, surrounded by staff on Maple C Ward including ward sister Alison Tindall, back left

Last week she started her new job as North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust’s director of nursing and midwifery at an immensely challenging time for the organisations.

But, as the world marks International Nurses Day, Gail wants the hard work, dedication and achievement of nurses here to be something that’s celebrated.

And she’s determined to help transform nursing practice in the county so that celebrations can be justified more often than the current one day a year.

“It is a great way of recognising the vital role that we staff and nurses play in a patient’s journey,” she says.

Gail’s appointment comes as both Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital languish in special measures after failed inspections and are in the midst of a takeover by the Northumbria Healthcare Trust.

However, in her role as the leading nurses and midwives in north Cumbria, she is charged with trying to improve how the nursing teams operate.

She’s certainly not short of experience having first stepped through the NHS doors 31 years ago.

Initially working as a nurse and then a midwife, Gail moved into management before becoming a director at Liverpool Women's NHS Foundation Trust six years ago.

Looking forward to her new job, she said: “I was just looking for my next big challenge. I intended to come here because it has some more specific challenges such as the rural geography of the area.

“It is early days but I do want to build on the good work that has already take place, especially over the last 12 to 18 months. I’m incredibly proud to be a nurse and a midwife and want to instil that pride into everyone.

“My first priority is focussed on getting out and about and getting to know the services and the people here. I want to be looking at how we can get a clear direction for nursing in the trust. We [nurses and midwives] are the one constant in the patient’s journey and I want to look at how we can continue to improve that quality. Every organisation can improve what it does.”

One of the ways in which she intends to make improvements is by giving the patients more of a voice.

“I want there to be a patient voice within the organisation so that we can really understand what patients want. Having that voice is really important and that is something I want to build on.

“I’m incredibly passionate about getting it right consistently for the patients. My mantra is along the lines of ‘Would this be good enough for my own family?’. That is where I start. If we have that as our ethos then you can’t go far wrong.

“There’s another big issue around the workforce: we need to make sure it is fit for purpose. I’ll be working alongside the university to make sure the curriculum is tailored for what we need.

“We have to look at how we can work differently to complement the work already being done by the staff. But we also need to celebrate what we do well because there is a lot of positive work going on. At the same time we need to be really challenging on what we need to improve but also highlight the good jobs we are doing.

“Everything just felt right from start to finish, it felt like it would be the right job for me. I feel completely overwhelmed with the reception I have got from the staff and patients alike.”

A challenge is not something that Gail is frightened of however.

Her previous appointment in Liverpool was also with a hospital trust that was facing challenges.

“It’s given me a really good grounding having had that experience, it is really beneficial when coming into this organisation. There are lots of opportunities when someone new comes in to do everything differently and get the services excelling,” she adds.

One thing that differentiates Gail from other NHS bosses is that she plans to remain very much hands-on and get stuck into work on the ward.

“It is really important from my perspective because I have to sit on the trust board and ensure that the staff and services are safe and good quality.

“There’s nothing more real than putting on a uniform and working alongside our staff. It gives you access to the staff and patients and you can learn a lot by working alongside them. You understand the challenges they face day to day. It is important to the staff as they know you understand the issues.”

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