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Work of community nurses takes centre stage

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Innovative community programmes developed by nurses and their colleagues have been celebrated at an event this week marking the end of the Transforming Community Services (TCS) programme.

Under the TCS Leadership Challenge 2011, 130 teams from across the country pitched ideas for new and improved community services in a dragon’s den style event earlier this year.

The ten regional winners received £50,000 from the Department of Health to develop their ideas which included a treatment programme for obese 11 -17 year olds in Kent and a scheme to help patients manage chronic pain in Sheffield.

Each team had to include a nurse as well as doctors and allied health professionals with the aim of developing more integrated services and creating leaders from across the professions.

The South Devon Epilepsy Group, who began life as an informal network who would meet in a local pub, were the winners in the South West region for their plan to develop an integrated care pathway for all patients with epilepsy.

The group includes a hospital consultant neurologist, a community specialist epilepsy nurse as well as two community learning disability teams  which also include nurses.

Community learning disability nurse Jenny Piedot, who has a special interest in epilepsy, said: “Between a quarter and a third of our patients have epilepsy and it is usually the more complex epilepsy. For me to be able to work closely with nurses and local hospitals is fantastic.”

Set up two years ago to focus on improving community services, TCS led to the separation of primary care trust’s provider arms with many integrating with local acute hospitals or mental health trusts or becoming community service trusts in their own right.

Chief nurse Dame Christine Beasley warned there was a danger of too much focus on the structural reform but said the leadership challenge had really focused closely on how services could be improved.

“It’s about making sure we don’t ever sink back into thinking ‘I’m making progress because I’m moving a services from one organisation to another organisation’,” she said.

Speaking at the finale event, public health minister Anne Milton called on the community teams to continue the good work despite the end of the programme.

She said: “We are entering what will be an exciting, but without a doubt a challenging time, for the NHS and there will be teething problems, there always are. But there will also be new opportunities for community services to take a central role in how health care is provided.”

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