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'It makes me proud to showcase the work of nurses'

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Lynne Maher helps nurses have ideas and offers support to transform them into reality

It was high drama that attracted Lynne Maher, director at the NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement, to become a nurse.

“My mum was a sister in A&E and I loved her stories about the excitement of that job. It was helping people beyond the usual, and saving lots of patients and making a difference to so many lives. It was that which made me want to become a nurse from an early age.”

Her career has provided its fair share of adrenaline. She was one of the critical care nurses drafted in to help after the 1984 Brighton bombing of The Grand Hotel during the Conservative party conference.

“That was a pretty amazing experience,” she says. “We had to move patients out of A&E to fit more critical patients in and everything happened so quickly. What I remember is that everyone coped. That’s the thing about nurses and other clinicians - they are superb at crisis management.”

Managing change is part of Ms Maher’s job as she leads on innovation and developing new products and processes at the NHS Institute.

“I was always fascinated by how supermarkets made us shop differently and how hotels improved bookings.

“A big part of my role now is to take this sort of learning from outside health and see how we might adapt and use some of it to improve our own processes and systems within the health service.

“This has influenced many of the Institute’s programmes such as the Productive ward: Releasing Time to Care where learning has been taken from customer service and manufacturing organisations, and adapted by nurses resulting in many improvements in safety, the quality of care and even staff sickness.”

Productive Ward is recognised internationally and has been exported to countries including New Zealand, Canada and America. They pay for the concept, bringing money into the NHS.

“Our jobs are to anticipate and understand challenges in the NHS. Last year, we started to work with staff in general practice and this has resulted in a general practice version of the Productive Ward,” says Ms Maher.

“As well as seeking out new ideas we have also been working with nurses to showcase some of the fantastic services that have been developed and provide this to others in a way that they can copy good practice. This resulted in the development of The Essential Collection: Eight High Impact Actions for Nurses and Midwives, which has examples of existing good ideas about improvements in end-of-life care, reducing pressure ulcers, reducing Caesarean section rates and essential hydration and nutrition.

“We started this by putting out a call for examples of great care processes, which resulted in over 600 submissions in just three weeks. It was wonderful to read about the innovations that have been achieved.

“The submissions did reveal there was a weakness in providing really good measurement data to illustrate the achievements and we needed to provide some additional support particularly around return on investment,” says Ms Maher.

“I love the High Impact Actions. As a nurse, it makes me proud to showcase the work of nurses and make them believe they can do something to improve patient experience and quality of care.”

Ms Maher started her career as a cadet nurse before qualifying at the Derbyshire Royal Infirmary. She sampled many specialities and operational areas. She has worked at both modern hospitals and older sites, and in many geographies, including London, Brighton and Canterbury.

“I qualified at the time when nurses were encouraged to move every nine months to a year to broaden their skills, so I moved around a lot,” says Ms Maher. “It was fantastic because I could see how hospitals did things and then take the best practices from different places.

“I used to tell nurses how other hospitals did things, and I am sure it went down like a lead balloon.”

Undaunted, Ms Maher says spotting opportunities for improvements is something she’ll never stop doing.

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