Reflections from a Diabetes UK Clinical Champion – by Dr Alex Bickerton

Dr Alex BickertonThe role of clinical champion is about patient advocacy and working with influential partners – but above all, it’s about leading positive change.

I am a consultant in a small district general hospital in beautiful and very rural South Somerset. My project involves assessing and addressing the local variability in the quality of diabetes care.

My reflections thus far on the Clinical champions programme fall into three main themes:

1. Time

  • The application process demanded that I put aside time specifically for diabetes work and that the hospital trust executive support this. The importance of the latter cannot be overstated as this legitimises the time I have spent on the role and has helped me balance my diabetes work against the multiplicity of other demands on my time.

    From a personal point of view, sitting quietly and reflecting on practical ways to improve care in Somerset has been incredibly fulfilling; this is one of the reasons I do diabetes!

2. Support

  • Peers – the opportunity to meet colleagues I may never have met from all around the UK in order to discuss issues, share experience and, most importantly, come up with positive solutions rather than simply sharing the same old moans has been incredibly valuable for my project and very motivating.
  • DUK and Novo Nordisk – The training and framework provided to develop and act as a change leader has inspired and empowered me to drive change.

3. Positive Outcomes

  • Profile of diabetes – within days of being appointed a Clinical Champion, I received enquiries about the role from both colleagues and patients. I have also been asked to speak at a number of meetings and receive increasing correspondence seeking my opinion. Consequently, the profile of diabetes locally has been raised, good practice is beginning to spread and the quality of care is improving.
  • Ability to make change – the title alone seems to open doors and change attitudes. Although relationships were good, previous commissioning meetings have not always felt like two-way discussions; now they always do. The training and peer support has given me the tools to drive forward change more rapidly than I ever would have previously.
  • New ways of working – I have commenced “virtual clinics” in the community to increase collaborative working, improve patient management and upskill primary care. I am developing further systems to improve accessibility to specialist advice.

Learning how to make positive change and push back against traditional barriers has been a positive experience. But more importantly, I feel confident that the changes I am driving will, in due course, be reflected in improved quality of diabetes care in South Somerset.

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