Health and Social Care
Voices of community health and social care: Jennifer’s story
Over the course of the past year, we have been up and down the country filming for our Voices campaign. We have heard from people who use and work in community health and social care, listening to their experiences and how this has shaped their hopes for the National Care Service.
Jennifer is the Lead Podiatrist for Learning Disabilities at NHS Fife. She works with adults who have learning disabilities.
Can you tell us about your role?
I’ve been a podiatrist for 11 years and I’ve been working in the learning disabilities team for about three years. I work with people to increase their mobility and reduce pain. I think there’s a misconception that podiatrists just cut people’s toenails. We don’t do that. We’ve got a really big role in prevention, we treat wounds that aren’t healing, we carry out nail surgery on ingrown toenails, we deal with a lot of musculoskeletal problems as well. Working with adults with learning disabilities, we often have challenges with communication or cognitive impairment. Developing strategies to ensure that the patient remains engaged and able to participate in the treatment is really important.
What do you find most rewarding about your role?
The most rewarding part of my job is the difference that I can make in people’s lives. Quite often I’ll have patients who are in pain. They cannot participate in the activities that they want to, and activities are really important for their physical and mental health. I know how important it is to be able to stay active for your own mental health and physical health, so enabling patients to do that is really important to me.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
The biggest challenge I face in my role is around people making foot health a priority. So quite often we don’t think of our feet until there’s a problem with them, but there’s so much that can be done in terms of prevention, in order to keep people active. Another challenge that I face is just raising the role of podiatry. Quite often people don’t understand what podiatrists do, so I do a lot of education and training with staff teams within the care sector and within the NHS just to make sure that people know what we can do and what we can offer our patients.
Can you give us an example of the difference that prevention can make?
I had a patient with a wound on their foot that was due to ill-fitting footwear, but the staff team supporting this person thought the footwear was appropriate. The person couldn’t participate in the activities they wanted to do, they couldn’t go swimming or to their athletics practice. And in turn that was having quite a big impact on their physical and mental health, and they were showing more enhanced behaviours towards their staff team. So, when they came in to see me, we were able to put things in place to get the wound healed. I referred them onto the orthotist to get appropriate footwear and they were able to return to their activities. If this person had accessed our services sooner, we could have prevented the issue from developing and given the staff team advice around what to look out for in terms of foot health.
Can you tell us what you think works well in the current system?
I’m part of a multidisciplinary team and it’s a really strong team that enables us to really meet the needs of the people using our service. Because we have regular meetings, we’re able to discuss problems that might be arising with our patients, and it means that the right person can get involved at the right time for that patient. It’s a really joined-up way of thinking and working.
What would you like to see from future improvement?
My hope for the National Care Service would be that there is a more co-ordinated approach to organising care throughout Scotland. I think at the moment it’s quite fragmented and depending on where you live can sometimes mean different access to services and different waiting times. In the patient group that I work with, I will often recognise that people need more support services and at the moment it can be quite difficult to arrange this. We don’t always know if it’s been done. A more cohesive approach would make this easier and help ensure my patients can live a more active and engaged life.
If you have experience of community health and social care, please register for our Lived Experience Experts Panel and help us design a National Care Service which meets the needs of everyone in Scotland.
We’re also hosting a series of in-person and online forums this summer as part of the development of the National Care Service. You can find out more information and how to register your place on gov.scot/ncs.