Sally Taber, director of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service, finds the NHS and private practice have common ground
Sally Taber set herself two challenges when she first joined independent nursing: to dispel the negative myths around non-NHS nursing; and to unite nurses with common goals, no matter who they worked for.
“I think it’s a shame that NHS and independent sector nurses can’t respect each other - it’s really important among all the current changes that we come to work together,” she says.
“I’m very lucky to have spent half of my career in the NHS and half in the independent sector. I keep in touch with my NHS colleagues and I can relate to what they’re going through.
“I can see good things about both and I don’t regret either.”
Ms Taber is the director of the Independent Healthcare Advisory Service and is focused on regulating private patient care. Its Treatments You Can Trust scheme launched earlier this month uses self-regulation and indirect regulation from professional bodies to ensure that patients who receive cosmetic injectables such as botulinum toxin are safe.
Ms Taber says that practitioners should be qualified and know how to deal with adverse effects. “In my first week in the independent sector a patient arrested during a cosmetic procedure. I was horrified that they hadn’t received a risk assessment,” she says. “I wanted to make sure that everyone followed good practice and we weren’t seen as an industry of cowboys.”
Ms Taber began her training at the Royal Free Hospital and, a few years later, found her NHS niche when she moved into dialysis and transplantation at St Mary’s in Portsmouth.
“I soon saw that I wanted to look after patients and that I could make a real difference,” she says. “They were all living on borrowed time and to help extend their lives gave me great satisfaction.”
She later became transplant coordinator at St Mary’s and led a pilot study into transplant coordination which she rates as one of her greatest achievements. She then mixed her work in the NHS with a short spell nursing in Zimbabwe.
“I was doing midwifery and I also worked as a clinic sister on an island just off Mozambique. It was difficult not having any running water and trying to cope with appointments when many patients didn’t own a clock. The clinic was on an island surrounded by a coral reef - it was all very different.”
The environment was not the only challenge: “I worked on a surgical unit during the apartheid years. I was only allowed to nurse white patients, and it wasn’t easy.”
On her return home after woking as a senior nurse at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Ms Taber began her move into the independent sector. She first worked at the Royal College of Nursing as an independent sector adviser and, later, as director of nursing at London Bridge Hospital. It was here that she found her passion for cosmetic work.
“Dealing with strategy at the independent sector at the RCN was where I came across my desire to ensure high standards on the cosmetic side,” she says. “We received so many calls from people who were out of their depth and it was obvious that practitioners didn’t know the right way to do things.”
With her wide experience, Ms Taber feels well qualified to be an independent nursing advocate. “I want to raise the profile of what we actually do in the independent sector. We’ve got some ideal places for clinical placements and there’s lots we can bring to the table.
“I’ve worked tirelessly to promote the role of good practice in independent nursing, particularly around education.”
Her hopes for nursing are as inspiring: “I want to make sure that the profile of nursing is one that the public respects. I want nursing morale to be high. It’s a superb job because there are so many challenges.”