Helen Beaton, Head of Clinical Governance, Quality and Patient Safety
Helen Beaton, Head of Clinical Governance, Quality and Patient Safety

HUC is committed to high quality care and patient safety, and our clinical governance team are key in helping us meet our high standards as an organisation. Helen Beaton, our Head of Clinical Governance, Quality and Patient Safety tells us about her role and why she recently completed a Minor Illnesses Course (Diploma) with NMIC (National Minor Illness Centre) accredited by Royal College of Nursing through HUC.

Helen had worked with the NHS for over 25 years at the local trust in various roles such as Matron, Head of Nursing, and other General management roles, before joining HUC five years ago. Her journey so far has been nothing less than fulfilling. “I joined the Governance and Quality team back in 2016 as I was always very interested in Clinical Governance and particularly investigatory work. The organisation has expanded exponentially ever since – with more contracts, and expanding into different locations, and also growing as an organisation in numbers; and I’m proud to be part of HUC’s journey,” she says.

Her role at HUC still feels like breath of fresh air in many ways, she says. “What I really like about working for HUC is most of the time my voice is heard, there is opportunity for innovation and I can contribute to decision-making supporting and affecting outcomes for the organisation; there is quite a bit of autonomy to make things happen and influence and change different aspects of the service to ensure patient safety. Myself, and my governance colleagues, also support services across the organisation, reviewing incidents and issues that may arise, feeding back as appropriate. We also oversee ongoing auditing and surveillance of different aspects of care again focusing on patient outcomes, learning and continuous improvement, also working closely with the patient experience team. (For further insight of the Governance team’s work, please see our Quality Account).

There are various aspects to Helen’s role in the organisation – while she is the Head of Clinical Governance, Quality and Patient Safety, she is also employed as a Senior Consultation Clinician, which gives her hands-on experience of our services during the Out of Hours period, triaging patients.

“One of the reasons I work as a consultation triage clinician is it allows me to experience the reality of the IUC service gaining clinical credibility with colleagues. With this experience of the challenges, you understand the complexity and the issues better, and I can work on solutions from my Head of Clinical Governance role. This role gives me that additional knowledge and insight,” Helen explains.

Helen is also a Senior Auditor, working with other clinical auditors auditing HUC’s senior clinicians for their triage, base and visiting consultations. They use feedback via a web-based tool called Clinical Guardian, which provides instant electronic feedback about the consultation to the clinicians, supporting their development and which enhances the outcomes for patients. Again, this role enhances the Head of Clinical Governance role.

With a wealth of experience already, Helen was keen to look at ways to continue to develop her knowledge in urgent and primary care to help provide the best patient care. As a result, in May 2021 she completed a Diploma in Minor Illness working alongside a GP in a clinical setting (at a practice) undertaking clinical practice hours over the last year and completing the five assignments necessary. This was on top of helping to lead HUC, our clinicians and our patient communities through the COVID pandemic within a challenging and changing landscape.

“This course has certainly been very insightful particularly from a primary care pharmacokinetics perspective. It has improved my understanding and knowledge of different medicines and how they work, the side effects and the potential outcomes for the patients. I am able to recommend different treatment plans with patients with improved knowledge and understanding,” she elaborates.

“Having that additional insight is important as a clinician, as Head of Clinical Governance enhancing patient safety investigations, and from an auditing perspective. I would recommend it to any clinician that is working in a triage capacity and wishes to gain more knowledge and insight, depending on where you are in your clinical career.”

What is her proudest moment at HUC? “When we were marked ‘Good’ in all five domains of the Care Quality Commission inspection. This was following a multidisciplinary quality summit review led by the CCG in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, so it was particularly gratifying to have HUC’s good work recognised and appreciated by the CQC” she says.

“We were recognised as having ‘Outstanding’ practice in one of the domains – overall the outcome was a really good for HUC and it makes me very proud. It certainly demonstrates the good work that HUC staff and clinicians do and the credit goes to the teams for being responsive, efficiently handling issues and problems and working together to turn things around quickly. We came out with an absolute assurance that we are a strong, innovative, agile health provider, which is a really good feedback, and it always makes you feel that despite some of the challenges, you’re doing a good job,” she concludes.