Ken West, our Head of Nursing and Safeguarding lead, shares with us the importance of safeguarding.

At HUC, the patient is at the heart and start of everything we do. This also means that there is a strong focus on safeguarding, which means protecting children, young people and adults at risk from potential abuse, harm, or neglect. Our Head of Nursing and Safeguarding Lead, Ken West, who has over four decades’ worth of experience in nursing, has been with HUC for the last 16 months. Throughout this time, he has led the way on our safeguarding approach, and overcome some intense professional and personal challenges during the pandemic. Ahead of International Nursing Day on 12 May, he tells us more about himself and his role at HUC.

A career in nursing

“I’ve been working in nursing for 43 years altogether now and it’s been a truly fulfilling career,” he says, adding, “Before I joined HUC, I worked for 19 years as a matron for ‘Medicine and Elderly Care’ at the East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and in 2015, undertook a secondment to Hinchingbrooke Hospital as Associate Director of Nursing for Quality and Improvement. I joined HUC shortly before the COVID-19 outbreak and it’s been quite an intense year. In January this year, I caught COVID myself and had to spend some time in RSU, but thankfully recovered fully, with support from my family and colleagues. I do not want to go through that again.”

Safeguarding at HUC

In his current role, Ken focusses on safeguarding for adults and children, working across teams and the different bases of our organisation and with our agency partners. Our policies are reviewed in line with local and national guidance, aligning training and competence of staff to expected professional requirements. “On average, we do about 350 safeguarding referrals a month across the whole organisation, so covering Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Hertfordshire and West Essex, Luton and Bedfordshire — so it is quite a large number, which splits round about two-thirds adults one-third children,” he specifies.

Strong Safeguarding Training Offering

“We take the view that safeguarding is everybody’s responsibility, which means you need to undergo training regardless of where you work within HUC, whether that’s in our services or in an office role. The key aspect of the training is to understand and assess situations and concerns, and it also keeps people abreast of changes in the safeguarding arena over the years. For us at HUC, there is an additional challenge – we don’t see majority of our patients as we deal with them over the phone so without using sight this poses an additional challenge,” Ken explains.

In addition, there are ‘Safeguarding Champions’ within the organisation, who are trained to give support when required on top of their day-to-day roles and work mostly in our call centres. In fact, a majority of cases are reported by our NHS 111 call handlers, who need to have an even stronger awareness of any signs of potential safeguarding concerns as they don’t actually see the patients, so are very much reliant on what they are listening to or hearing in the background.

“We have recently introduced Level-3 training for all champions to handle other issues such as domestic violence, child abuse, exploitation etc. As part of my monthly sessions as a supervisor, I like to give a bit of a recap on a particular and some key points from the various safeguarding boards that I attend,” he elaborates. “We are proud to have close working arrangements with all Safeguarding Partnerships across the communities we serve and, on an ad hoc basis, with others out of area.”

Once we identify a case, it is reported to the relevant authorities who will act according to the requirement of the case. “HUC is a conduit, we make the referrals and pass on the details to local authorities. We do not undertake any investigation directly nor do we get involved in the decision-making process. But we have a duty to support officers with relevant information,” says Ken, adding, “This explains how crucial the training is for people to make effective referrals.”

Effective approach and crucial steps

“We have to report to our Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) regularly and have to meet certain standards or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which we are measured against. For example, we expect that 95% of our staff are fully up to date on their safeguarding training. We are an organisation that has contact with patients, both adults and children, people with special needs, and vulnerable people, therefore we are obliged to make sure we have that training in place,” Ken explains.

He is also particularly proud of the result of the annual safeguarding review the Section 11 of the Children’s Act 2004, which places duties on certain organisations to ensure their functions safeguard and promote the welfare of children, as well as the 2018 ‘Working Together Document’. “Despite COVID, the assessments were all positive when they came back in October last year and we got praise for our progress on the action plan.”

Very supportive colleagues at HUC

Ken enjoys working at HUC but the people make it the great place it is, he says. “I also really enjoy networking opportunities, both inside and outside of HUC. Working in the NHS, I also like to address challenges and come up with solutions,” he says. He is supported by his colleagues within the clinical team. His greatest time is spent when he is with his four grandchildren.

“HUC is a friendly organisation and I’ve really enjoyed every single day I’ve been here. With COVID around, there have been challenging times, but we’ve come out stronger as a team. At the end of the day it’s all about being there for patients. And the support from everybody at HUC is spectacular.”