Rochdale health visitor wins award for supporting isolated families during the pandemic

Date published: 17 October 2021

A health visitor from Rochdale Care Organisation, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Foundation Trust (NCA), has won a prestigious award for going above and beyond to support isolated families during the pandemic.

Emma Carey was announced winner of the Community and General Practice Nursing category of the RCN Nursing Awards 2021 at a ceremony on Tuesday 12 October.

The NCA’s Cygnet Team were also Highly Commended in the Team of the Year category. The Cygnet nursing team was established during the pandemic as a bridge between carers and families who were unable to visit their loved one at the end of life.

Emma noticed that many families felt their health visitor was less accessible during lockdown and evidence showed that children under the age of two suffered disproportionately high levels of harm from lockdown.

With no additional funding, she implemented low-cost, high-impact interventions for families during and after lockdown.

Her Walk & Talk project offered families the chance to meet each other and a health visitor outdoors in nearby green spaces, access support and improve their physical and mental wellbeing.

She also curated a sustainable community “breadline” recipe book. For every book sold, another was donated free to a family in need.

Emma said: “The book has been a huge success. We have sold over £500 worth of books, allowing for an additional one for each purchase to go to women’s refuges, homeless projects, our food box scheme and families identified through the health service.

“A local food bank gave them out with free slow cookers as some families had no access to cooking facilities and the book accounts for this with a special “no cook” section.”

The Nurse Awards judges were impressed by her determination to support mothers with young children despite the challenging environment posed by the pandemic and the shrinking health visitor workforce.

Chair of judges Joanne Bosanquet, chief executive of the Foundation for Nursing Studies, said: “Emma is a fantastic example of how health visitors can have a huge impact on families. She thinks outside the box and designs and delivers high impact work that is supporting the most vulnerable families in her community.”

Vick Thorne, divisional director of nursing at Rochdale Care Organisation, part of the Northern Care Alliance NHS Group, said: “Emma is an innovative practitioner who is always finding ways to engage families and help make access to care easier for those who need it the most. We are so proud of Emma and all that she has achieved to support families in Heywood, Rochdale and Middleton.”

The Cygnets were established during the pandemic as a bridge between carers and families who were unable to visit their loved one at the end of life. The team is made up of nursing support workers, nurses, nursing students and volunteers.

Using tablets to connect the patient and their family through virtual platforms, the Cygnets provided support and company to people who were alone at the end of life when their families could not be with them, while making sure their families were able to communicate with them.

The team also introduced memory diaries to capture key moments and aspects of patients’ last days to share with their families

Alice Davies, assistant director of nursing for palliative, end of life care and bereavement, at the NCA, said: “This is so exciting, we are so privileged to be Highly Commended at the RCN final. The Cygnets cared for patients at end of life and their families, making the best for them at such challenging times, something which as part of the wider contributions of all health professionals, we couldn’t be more proud of.”

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