The Carer Voices team migrated their offering to support those working in general practice during the pandemic.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the ALLIANCE Carer Voices project worked with health and social care professionals and students across the UK to implement and embed the vision of Intelligent Kindness and Compassionate Care in practice, every day.

Tommy Whitelaw, Project Lead of Carer Voices, has travelled the length and breadth of the country taking every opportunity to attend seminars, events and staff meetings to speak with groups of nurses, doctors and students. The project has visited a wide range of settings from acute wards to GP practices, national conferences, individual care homes, community care settings, regional events to university departments. These numerous visits have revealed impressive and moving commitment, enthusiasm and energy among all staff and their organisations to achieving the goals of a kinder and more compassionate community of care in practice.

2020 has been declared the the Year of the Nurse and Midwife by The World Health Organisation (this link will take you away from our website). When it became apparent earlier this year that the COVID-19 outbreak was going to have an unprecedented effect on Project Lead Tommy Whitelaw’s ability to deliver sessions in person as well as General Practice’s capacity and services, it took just one week for the Carer Voices project to change its offer to a digital format. The team adapted its hours of availability to meet the working hours of clinical staff including GPs, General Practice and Community Nurses, as well as the wider multidisciplinary team and Practice Managers.

These sessions have helped to reinvigorate the focus on core values at a time of crisis and provided a shared purpose towards delivering high quality, compassionate care. Lynne Innes, NHS Education for Scotland (NES) National Coordinator for General Practice Nursing, said: “Although these sessions were originally intended for the GP Nursing workforce, they provided an opportunity for wider collaboration for everyone working or volunteering in health and social care with the ethos of them being to ensure inclusivity. Through the sessions, Tommy enabled and supported us to consider how everyone working or volunteering in health or social care has a fundamental connection and role in delivering kind and compassionate care.”

There are remarkable examples of the ways in which staff are embracing the values and behaviours that underpin Intelligent Kindness. The Carer Voices project has gathered positive outcomes reported by nurses who participated in the partnership with many stating how impactful it had been on Twitter and via direct emails.

The partnership model created opportunities for reciprocal learning among professionals. It also provided opportunities for building relationships with the third sector. Most importantly, nurses who participated in the model reported that it provided calmness and reinvigorated their nursing practice at a time health and social care professionals are most under pressure balancing both their personal and professional lives in a period of uncertainty. Lynne added that: “The sessions not only allow us to reflect on relationships and connections with others but also our relationship with ourselves. We embrace the insightful, thoughtful and benevolent manner in which Tommy is able to represent his own heartfelt intelligent kindness, thereby providing us with the resources to be kind to ourselves and support each other which, during these difficult and unprecedented times, has been like moving our chairs out of the shadows and into the sunshine.”

The mix of kindness, good humour and a desire to make sure everyone feels supported and valued during the webinars has helped make this challenging time more positive. Through collaborative working, a mix of webinars with clinical and non-clinical colleagues attending has allowed everyone to understand they are important and valued for the role they play in responding to the public health crisis. Both the Carer Voices project and NHS colleagues have gained from the relationships, in many unforeseeable ways. As the Carer Voices project continues to navigate this pandemic, it remains committed to reinventing their partnerships with NHS colleagues to meet the ongoing needs of education and reflective practice.