Making collaboration work

Strategic partnerships that focus on children’s specialist services work well, says Alison Sims.

Strategic partnerships that focus on children’s specialist services work well, says Alison Sims.

The Children’s Hospitals Network (CHN) was formed in 2012 following a review of national specialist services, creating a strategic partnership focusing on children’s specialist services.

It meant that the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH) and the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust (UHS) collaborated, with the CHN hosting clinical and operational networks across more than 20 district general hospitals in the Thames Valley and Wessex regions.

Planting foundations

The joint venture already covers neurosciences, critical care, cardiac, rehabilitation and orthopaedic specialities, with further services planning to join. Strong foundations have been established allowing this proactive review of services.

Preceding the CHN, there was already a history of partnership and collaboration between OUH and UHS. This strong bond has enabled a greater understanding of effective communication and sharing of best practice.

Working in a different way across large regions can be challenging. A notable example being where a specialist service is shared between the two trusts with particular interventions taking place on one site.

This change can mean that the focus and role of nursing will be different across the network, and there is a risk of limiting nursing contribution. However, the advantage is there is opportunity for nursing staff to maintain and expand their skills and knowledge.

Implementing a regional model

The CHN is committed to ensuring that nursing is high profile and believes that it is vital to the on-going development of the network. There are considerable benefits inherent in this regional model. First, there is evidence that nursing is at the helm in terms of shaping and developing the service by membership of the oversight board. This encourages nurses to contribute to the vision and strategic direction of the network.

Second, the clinical forums which have been introduced across specialties in the larger regions provide an arena for nurses to discuss and share best practice.

Forums are an exemplary space to highlight common themes, difficult cases and other practice. This enables agreed shared pathways and protocols, providing parity across the region.

This is beneficial when presenting innovations that have proven effective in one region, and could be replicated across the wider constituency.

Vital continuity

The changes to services over the years have been supported by patients and their families who have appreciated being seen by the same team members, whether they are receiving treatment at OUH or UHS. It is recognised that this continuity of care is vital not only to patients with long-term conditions but also to the nursing teams who are often involved in the patient’s care throughout their lifetime.

CHN network-wide strategies in development:

  • Patient and parent involvement
  • This is building on the excellent work that takes place within the trusts, connecting existing groups with the network to share best practice. There is a drive to ensure that, wherever possible, all services include patient/parent representation.
  • Transition from children’s to adult care

The recently published NICE guidelines have increased the impetus to explore transition programmes of young people to adult services. To this end the Ready Steady Go model is being adopted across Thames Valley and Wessex regions.

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About the author

Alison Sims

Alison Sims is associate director of Oxford and Southampton Children’s Hospitals Network

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