My first six months as a Clinical Champion – by Dr Christopher Smith

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Dr Christopher Smith is Consultant Physician in Diabetes and Endocrinology, Royal Alexandra Hospital. Becoming one of the Diabetes UK Clinical Champions has given his staff and hospital even more motivation to get behind his projects to improve diabetes care for people in Paisley, Scotland, he says.

I was blissfully unaware of the Clinical Champions programme until I was approached to apply by a colleague who felt I might be interested in the programme. Having read a bit more about the programme on the Diabetes UK website, I thought it sounded interesting and potentially would support some of the ideas I had about developing local services for people living with diabetes.

I was also attracted to the idea of raising the profile of my diabetes team in Paisley, and promoting the excellent work and diabetes care that we do.

So I put in my application for the programme, and was then invited for interview. I was delighted to find out I was successful, but also a little apprehensive about what I’d signed up to.

Very quickly more information was forthcoming and I was organising my first trip to Ashridge business school and finalising what I was going to do as my “project” for my two years in post as a Clinical Champion.

This has essentially involved formalising two programmes of quality improvement with nursing staff from general wards at my hospital – Royal Alexandra – and our local cohort of practice nurses in primary care.

This June, I had my first trip to Ashridge. I knew we were going to find out more about the Clinical Champions programme and start learning about leadership and managing change.

Unfortunately my train was late, and I was concerned as a dour Scot that I’d walk into a room of people I didn’t know who would be standing in a circle introducing themselves. Worst fears confirmed, I quickly settled into the group and realised this was going to be quite fun, informative and very helpful for my own personal development. Guy (our facilitator) has been fantastic, he is excellent at guiding us through our training and helping us develop specific communication skills to help with our projects and day to day work. He has won over a born sceptic in me.

After our first session we were told to contact local press teams to publicise our new appointments as Clinical Champions. This did raise my profile, and I noticed my own team became more interested in the work and were quite proud of my appointment. It also started some positive dialogue with key stakeholders in my hospital and has made my project easier to progress.

To date, our two sessions at Ashridge have been excellent. Not only has Guy taught me a lot about leadership and change management, I’ve reflected on my own skills and weaknesses in a very positive way. Time away from the pressure valve of work has been very valuable.

Arguably the main strength of the programme has been the relationships I’ve formed with the rest of the champions. The peer to peer support and cross fertilisation of ideas has been very helpful. We all seem to have the same obstacles to overcome! In particular my work with Joanne, Ian, Vicky and Paul, the other Scotland and Northern Ireland champions, at our Action Learning Sets has been very enlightening. Bonds are being made that I’m sure will extend way beyond the end of the programme.

Special mention to Emily and Beth who are the Clinical Champions Project Managers at Diabetes UK. No problem is too big, or issue too difficult for them to help you deal with.

In short, if you are involved in diabetes care apply, you won’t regret it.

Applications open in early 2017. If you are interested in applying to become a Clinical Champion please e-mail clinicalchampions@diabetes.org.uk.

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