‘Brilliant’ Kelly is patient’s choice

By setting up a truly integrated and streamlined service for faecal incontinence, nurse Kelly Stackhouse has transformed lives

Kelly Stackhouse has scooped the Patient’s Choice award, sponsored by Yakult, after gaining the most public votes.

Kelly Stackhouse talks to patient Tom Owen. Photo: Tim George

Patients nominate a nurse who has made a difference to their lives, with a shortlist of four considered by the public.

Lead bowel function clinical nurse specialist (CNS) Kelly, who works for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, was nominated by patient Tom Owen, who says she was critical to him surviving rectal cancer and a subsequent anterior resection.

Cutting edge

‘Incontinence is a hidden subject no one likes to talk about or admit to suffering,’ he says. ‘At various times I was really struggling. I feel lucky this leading-edge team has been in my district. Kelly is selfless and leads from the front. She’s just brilliant.

‘I cannot put into words what she has done for me and, of course, other patients. And to be chosen by the public is quite an accolade.’

After qualifying in 2003 as a cadet, Kelly worked on an acute surgical ward specialising in colorectal surgery, and then became link nurse for the colorectal CNSs.

She says: ‘They invested in me with training so, out of hours, I was able to site and care for stoma patients which helped enhanced recovery. Colorectal care has always been my passion.’

Growing interests

She loved her 2009 secondment with the colorectal CNSs, and took an interest in pelvic floor and bowel dysfunction.

The following year she began her current role, starting the faecal incontinence and constipation healthcare (Finch) service at Sandwell Hospital. ‘Starting it from scratch entailed everything,’ Kelly recalls. ‘Policies, pathways, coding, promotion, patient leaflets, business cases, project planning as well as on-the-job training, patient record cards, devising a database and audit sheets.’

She taught herself Excel, then worked until 10pm or 11pm each day, and weekends. ‘It wasn’t easy,’ she says. ‘I have put blood, sweat and tears into this. But now I love it; it was all worth it. We have to battle daily due to the constraints of the NHS and nothing comes easy. But I am passionate and willing to fight for what is needed to make sure my patients get the best care.’

Care vision

In 2012 she had a vision for her service – to devise an integrated care pathway for faecal incontinence, moving service delivery into the community setting. ‘I followed the right-care-right-here model,’ says Kelly. ‘I worked closely with the clinical commissioning group and community team to devise a patient handheld document and new referral pathway which was more streamlined and makes the patient journey better.’

Piloted, audited and evaluated by Birmingham City University, it proved a success. Kelly was able to recruit another nurse, CNS Elizabeth Clarson, and then in 2015 Jodie Smith joined the team.

Tom says he especially values the anterior resection survival group set up by the team. ‘It’s been an absolute boon to me and others,’ he says. ‘We get together about 4 times a year and swap information. Specialists give us talks on areas such as diet, exercise and the latest treatments.

‘One of my quibbles, throughout my problems with the after-effects of my anterior resection, has been that I had never met any fellow sufferers. I could not compare progress with anyone else. Now I can. It will be a huge help to patients.’

Reaching out

The team expected a handful of people to turn up when they started the group, but 20 came. ‘Tom was willing to stand up and talk about his experience,’ Kelly says. ‘We are a small unit but cover the West Midlands. We have been reaching out to other areas to see if their patients would benefit from joining the group.’

Kelly and colleagues organise charity events in their own time to raise money to buy specialised equipment for the department. So far they have raised £15,000 from tombolas, cake stalls, a variety night and a boxing evening.

‘I feel humbled,’ says Kelly. ‘It’s so rewarding to make a difference to someone’s life.

I am a proud and passionate nurse; I came into nursing to make a difference.

‘An anterior resection has a massive impact on patients’ quality of life. You might be cured of cancer but you have to live with going to the toilet 20 times a day.

‘Tom was one of my first patients, so he’s lived the journey with me as I’ve developed the service. I feel overwhelmed to have been nominated by him. It is so touching that I have helped
my patient and he took the time to write those words about my team and I. It is not me single-handedly – it is a team effort, and we all do it because we care.’

Hands-on care

Chief nurse Colin Overton says it is ‘tremendous’ to have Kelly on his team. ‘She has an enviable reputation for excellence in hands-on care,’ he says. ‘Her service has the patient at its heart. Patients are listened to and their problems get resolutions, bearing in mind that for most of them they probably think their problem cannot be resolved or they are too embarrassed to do much about it.

‘Kelly has gone above and beyond to gather insights, knowledge and experience so she can make a difference to every patient. She shows an appreciation of the social dynamics of incontinence, applying know-how in an individualised approach for patients, sharing her experience, role-modelling a unique and highly appreciated service.’

The service continues to go from strength to strength. It recently became part of the Black Country Alliance, and will share its specialised service with 2 neighbouring trusts. The nurses are active in research, working closely with the Pelvic Floor Society. More than 40 people attend the support group.

Kelly has also developed a national nursing forum for bowel function. ‘People come to us for training from across the UK,’ she says. ‘There is very little out there on faecal incontinence and we use cutting-edge treatments such as titanium ring implants. We want to share our experience and help and guide others.’

She hopes winning the Patient’s Choice award will enable her to do that. ‘I have had so much support; I’m so humbled and grateful,’ she says. ‘It is lovely to win, but even if I hadn’t, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. More importantly the service is being promoted. Referrals have increased and more are being helped. We’re slowly breaking down “the taboo around poo”.’


Elaine Cole  is managing editor, Nursing Standard  @prideinnursing

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