A staff-owned social enterprise is to test rotational nursing posts spanning acute and community care after winning one of England’s biggest healthcare contracts.
Managers hope the move will help boost recruitment and retention of nurses, as the organisation strives to transform community health services in north east Essex – an area with one of the largest elderly populations in the UK.
“We’re starting to offer posts where somebody could come into community nursing but have periods in the acute trust, mental health or our minor injuries unit”
The community interest company Anglian Community Enterprise (ACE) was awarded the seven-year, £240m contract to deliver a range of community and some acute services by the North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group.
Managing director Lynne Woodcock, a nurse by background, said nursing staff were “the key” to ACE’s plans to re-shape services.
“Nurses are fundamental to us being successful,” she told Nursing Times.
“It is early days but our model is about putting the patient at the centre and wrapping an integrated team that includes nurses, therapy and some social care, around the patients and the GP practices,” she said.
“It’s about cutting out all that waste when people are referring into lots of different services and having a single point of access in and a single referral system,” she added.
The contract covers an area which includes Clacton, Colchester, Harwich, and Jaywick, the most deprived ward in the country.
Ms Woodcock said the organisation planned to build on successful practice such as its innovative nurse-led rapid assessment service and the “complete redesign” of the local community hospital.
“Before it was a very medical model,” said Ms Woodcock. “What happens now is that advanced nurse practitioners get referrals and assess patients and can then bring those patients into what is effectively a nurse-led bed.
“So instead of having a full-time consultant/junior doctor model we have got advanced nurse practitioners supported by GPs,” she said.
She said the model has opened up career development opportunities for nurses – boosting retention of experienced staff – and early evidence suggested it was making a difference such as reducing emergency hospital admissions.
Ms Woodcock said ACE’s workforce strategy recognised the need to recruit and retain skilled and experienced nurses and the organisation has worked with partners to develop rotational posts.
“We’re starting to offer posts where somebody could come into community nursing, but have periods in the acute trust, mental health or our minor injuries unit,” said Ms Woodcock.
“So it’s not about someone coming in and just doing one job and then having to leave the organisation if they want to move on.”
She said the organisation would be advertising its first rotational posts very soon. “We’re just going to do a couple at first but we think it is going to take off quite quickly,” she said.
The idea was to create rotational roles for both newly-qualified and more experienced nursing staff, she added.
“We’re going to test both,” she said. “We often get newly qualified staff into the community and it is quite daunting but maybe on a rotational post they would start elsewhere and come to community further into their rotation.”