My job

Discovering a different side to the NHS

After 32 years in nursing, Helen Ballinger talks about her new role as clinical commissioning manager 

After 32 years in nursing, Helen Ballinger talks about her new role as clinical commissioning manager  


Helen Ballinger: 'I’ve always enjoyed making a difference to people’s lives'

What is your job?

I became a clinical commissioning manager in July 2017 after being in provider services for 32 years. I’m part of the integrated commissioning team and older people’s hub and I work closely with my social care colleagues on joint projects that will affect future health and social care provision. I also work with provider services and primary care with a focus on frailty.

Why did you become a nurse?

I used to go health visiting with my aunty when I was seven years old. I loved it and from that age I was always going to be a nurse. I started my training in 1985 and my focus changed to wanting to be a district nurse.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I’ve always enjoyed making a difference to people’s lives. In my new role as a clinical commissioning manager, I’m enjoying new challenges and learning a different side of the NHS.

You are relatively new to your role as a clinical commissioning manager, what has the move from a provider to a commissioner been like?

It’s been busy! I’ve hit the ground running and the pace is fast. I’m learning so many new things that I had never thought of before. The greatest challenge has been to understand the structure and processes as it is very different from provider services. The sharing of information is also crucial. I hadn’t realised that as a commissioner you are not able to have any data that identifies patients. Getting used to not having access to patients’ information has been difficult. At times, I have missed the patient contact.

How does your current job make use of your skills?

I’m now looking at how services are provided and funded – and the quality and value of those services to the community. My knowledge and skills as a community nurse have helped me considerably when engaging with provider and primary care colleagues.

What nursing achievement makes you most proud?

My proudest nursing achievement was becoming a Queen’s Nurse in 2007. I was one of the first 50 in the country to be awarded the title for my commitment and dedication to community nursing. I was also given the honour to march in uniform for the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations, alongside nine other Queen’s Nurses, all representing the profession. The cheers from the crowd were heart-warming. It’s sad that my mum was not alive to see it; she would’ve been so proud. I was privileged to have looked after my mum and nurse her to the end of her life in her own home, where she wanted to be, with all the family surrounding her.

What makes a good community or primary care nurse?

A good community or primary care nurse is kind, caring and compassionate. They have a good all-round knowledge and skill base to be able to nurse people in a variety of settings who have a wide range of illnesses and diseases. They are strong and resilient but able to maintain a good sense of humour.

What advice would you give a newly-registered nurse?

To maintain a good work and home life balance and not to be tempted to take work home.

What is likely to affect nurses working in primary care over the next 12 months?

I believe the difficulties over the next 12 months are going to be recruiting and retaining the nursing workforce. With people living longer and in their own homes, the workload demands on health and social care staff is enormous. Encouraging people to self-manage their conditions, improving person-centred care and involving the voluntary sector will be a vital way of coping with this increase in demand.

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