Lin Graham-Ray, Hammersmith and Fulham’s designated nurse consultant for looked-after children, has scooped the top prize at the Nursing Standard awards* when she was named the nation’s nurse of the year.
Lin won the award for her work to improve services for looked after children in the borough. Lin and her team worked on a project to redevelop looked-after children’s health plans, so that they include wellbeing activities to boost self-confidence and happiness, in addition to vaccinations and health checks.
“In the past, health reports may have simply recommended eye tests or immunisations,’ Lin explains, ‘but I want people to do whatever they can to help these children achieve optimum health – not just tick the box that they’ve been to the dentist or had their immunisations. I think we’ve all realised that there’s more to health than just vaccinations – looking after the well being of our children is just as important. Prescribing activities like baton-twirling helps boost confidence which can really make a difference to their lives and it means that they’re healthier and happier”.
There are currently around 60,000 looked-after children living in the UK. Many looked after children have experienced abuse and neglect and have extensive health needs. Their educational achievement is much lower than that of their peers and they are four times more likely to have a mental disorder.
As the borough’s lead nurse for looked-after children, Lin’s post is funded by NHS Hammersmith and Fulham and the council. She provides a range of health advice and support to the borough’s 230 children in care.
Looked-after children nurses like Lin support these young people by building their trust, carrying out health checks and answering their health and well being questions. Lin realised that the health and well being of these young people needed to be addressed more systematically and creatively. The children had complex lives with frequent changes of home and school. Lin introduced a scheme assigning a lead health professional to each young person, with a personalised care pathway and plan.
Lin said: “The feedback we get from young people is helping to continually improve the service. For example, when out on visits we now wear jeans because the children told us that we’re more approachable and easier to talk to in casual clothes.”
Sarah Whiting, Managing Director of NHS Hammersmith and Fulham, said: “ By developing new projects and initiatives like the ones produced by Lin and her team, we’re improving care and making sure that our patients lead happy and healthy lives.”
Lin contributed to the recent Government office for London publication “Supporting the Health and Well being of London’s Looked After Children – Learning from Emerging Practice” available here
*Established in 1988, the Nursing Standard Awards identify outstanding achievement and promote excellence and innovation in nursing care. Around 3,000 nurses are nominated for the honours every year.