People often ask me what I do when I am not being ‘The Dean’. Well the answer is it’s sometimes hard to know when one role stops and another starts. There are a great many things that I find myself drawn into, but there is a common thread: working to try to improve the experience of healthcare for those in need of it.
One of my many roles outside the University of Southampton is as Chief Clinician for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support. I offer advice on how Macmillan might focus resources, projects and policy influence on improving the lives of people affected by cancer, and also on how we might develop better knowledge and insight into the long term needs of people who are cancer survivors.
I also co-chair the NHS England Patient Experience Advisory Group, which oversees the National Survey of the Experiences of Treatment and Care for every patient receiving cancer treatment in England, whilst devising initiatives to use the survey to improve care. Around 65,000 people complete the survey each year, giving rich and important insights into the things the NHS is getting right, as well as the things that need to improve.
I have been a cancer nurse specialist for almost 30 years and have undertaken research into aspects of care and support for people with cancer throughout this time. Though very busy, I still work hard to keep active in research, working alongside a great team of colleagues. Currently this involves how we might identify people who may have symptoms of lung cancer before they have thought of going to see a GP for help. We are trying to find ways of getting lung cancer diagnosed earlier, and through this, improve the number who can be treated successfully.
In addition, I am very interested in understanding the long term problems people with cancer are facing so that we can develop ways of preventing them or developing better ways of providing support. For all the investment in cancer research over the last 30 years, very little has been invested in improving life after cancer treatment.
Over the last two years I have been a member of the Prime Minister’s Nursing and Care Quality Forum, through which we have advised on how to address issues of quality of care that have been in the media so frequently. Setting safe nurse staffing levels has been one important outcome of our advice.
I take what opportunities I can to influence health policy. For example, I have long been an advocate of strong humanitarian values as a bedrock for all that we do in healthcare and education. I am especially proud that at the University of Southampton we have not wavered from placing imperatives like empathy and compassion, as well as evidence informed practice, at the very centre of the learning process.
Outside of work I am a mother to two lovely daughters who keep my feet on the ground. I start my day by running up a hill with our Labrador Billie; her last duty of the day is to help me say good night to my teenage daughter by sitting on her in bed. I also love cooking, especially for friends and colleagues. Walking, music and travelling are other great passions of mine, although there is never enough time in the day for them.