Richard Tuck, a Clinical Advisor at our Bedford Contact Centre shares his experience of working with caring and compassionate colleagues with us and the important role Clinical Advisors play as part of our NHS111 services.

Richard has been with HUC as a Clinical Advisor for two and a half years now. Prior to this, he had been working in the Accident and Emergency (A&E) Department but due to a serious health issues he sadly had to give up his job. “This could have been the end of my nursing career”, he says, “ if it hadn’t been for HUC. The Clinical Advisor job advert for HUC came at a time when I still wasn’t quite recovered but ready to return to a less physically intense nursing role.”

“When I joined HUC, I realised that I could continue my career in the clinical field. I was so glad that I could use all my skills in this role. It was the best feeling ever,” he recalls.

Richard was quite surprised at the range of support available to him in his early days at HUC – and even now. “This wasn’t something I’d known before and even took a bit of getting used to, but I love how everyone really cares about each other. The work environment here is warm and friendly, and everyone has been so supportive from Day 1,” he says.

So what’s a typical day for him?

As a Clinical Advisor, he supports his colleagues, mostly NHS111 Call Handlers – or Health Advisors as they are known internally – that need clinical input. “Talking to patients and referring them to the services available appropriately is an integral part of the job,” he states. “This really feels like such an important role both for the patient’s outcome but also supporting our NHS colleagues in other services, making sure that A&E and ambulances are for emergencies only.”

He further explains, “If there is a way the symptoms can be managed at home, we guide the patients and refer them to the right services for their healthcare needs. Rather than spending time in a busy waiting room at A&E, this means they receive the right care first time. This also helps us support our colleagues throughout the NHS, ensuring that they are referred appropriately to home care, A&E, the Emergency Department or a GP surgery.”

“I think what really surprised me at the start of my HUC career is the support we can provide even if we are not meeting patients face-to-face,” he exclaims. ”There is real value in telephone triage.”

Well, a lot of credit goes to our training team as well.

“It’s amazing how everybody works as a team at HUC, and that’s from when you first walk through the door. In the first few weeks, you go through rigorous training, so you are well-prepared to take live calls,” he explains. “The NHS Pathways training takes about six weeks, following which there is an exam. NHS Pathways is the clinical decision-making tool we use in NHS 111. Once a Clinical Advisor has passed the initial exam, they complete buddy shifts, so that they’re properly coached even when they’ve already started taking live calls.”

“The training is very helpful as it instils confidence on handling situations as well as improving your knowledge and expertise. As Clinical Advisors, we are in a different setting than we’re normally used to, which is not face-to-face with the patient, so the challenge is of a different level. It’s over the phone and you have to gauge other factors like background etc, so the training certainly helps.”

At HUC, there is a lot of emphasis on professional training and development and Richard feels that opportunities are aplenty. “Besides training related to the job role, there is a lot of support for training on further development. Colleagues can enrol for different kinds of courses which can help enhance skills and expertise. There is also scope for development into roles such as auditing, coaching and team management, if anybody wants to pursue that.”

On recommending HUC to others, he replies almost instantly, “100%! I would certainly recommend HUC to anyone I know who is looking for a job. I think the organisation is very efficiently run and the support is spectacular.”

What Richard appreciates the most is being valued. “The biggest thing I find with HUC is that everybody feels valued and motivated. For example, if you have a difficult call, there is so much support – there are debriefers, and other resources, which is very helpful to have.”

This role, he says, offers him a work-life balance. Working on a 35-hour week, with a balance of weekdays and weekends, it couldn’t be better. There are certainly big challenges and pressures to navigate, especially now in the pandemic, but with a strong support system around, the stress is more manageable. “At the end of the day, it is very rewarding. We are helping patients and supporting NHS colleagues. That’s huge. I am very proud to work here. If I hadn’t come here it would be career ending for me. But here I am, still working as a nurse and helping people.”