As Colin Peters leaves us as Clinical Lead for our organisation’s neonatal improvement work after five years, in this blog he describes the rewards of the role of clinical lead and how he made the role work alongside his day job.

Interesting, rewarding and enjoyable. After five years as the Neonatal Clinical Lead for Healthcare Improvement Scotland, that’s how I would describe the role. Now that I’ve moved on from the role and I reflect on the time with the organisation’s Scottish Patient Safety Programme, I feel grateful for the tremendous support of the team and the engagement of neonatal teams from around Scotland in order to deliver improvements.

There have been lots of highlights during the five years, but I particularly enjoyed the learning sessions where we had such engagement from everyone involved: nurses, midwives, doctors, improvement advisors and more. Post-it notes and marker pens were the order of the day with roaming microphones and ideas aplenty.

While I’ll miss being in the role, it does mean that there is a fantastic opportunity waiting for someone to take up the mantle of Neonatal Clinical Lead.

The role of the MCQIC Neonatal Clinical Lead

So what does the role of Neonatal Clinical Lead entail? First up, the role is essentially for one day a week, so you undertake the role alongside your clinical duties within your NHS board.

The key responsibility is to provide clinical direction to the neonatal improvement work of the organisation. This includes identifying new areas of work and ensuring that existing areas are up to date. Here it’s important to seek new ideas from around the UK and abroad, as well as draw on recent publications, national guidelines and evidence.

Within the role, you get to visit each NHS board to provide support, share ideas, motivate and inspire. I really enjoyed these as I inevitably came away with a new idea or reflection on something that could be developed.

The importance of collaboration and leadership

Working collaboratively with Midwifery and Obstetric Leads and NHS board teams on measures that sit across the whole MCQIC programme, is a vital part of what the clinical lead will do. In my view, improvement in neonatal outcomes depends on improvements in obstetrics and midwifery. The collaborative work on the Preterm Perinatal Wellbeing Package was a fine example of working across teams to come up with a message for everyone caring for a woman delivering prematurely and her baby.

Leadership is another key element of the role, for example, leading sessions at Scotland-wide meetings. These are really interesting sessions with a fair bit of work involved to put together an engaging presentation / session that leaves the delegates inspired to go back to their NHS boards with ideas and a motivation to improve.

You will also develop and participate in regular webinars. These are now more familiar to us all and although talking to your own screen, hoping that there are people out there, is strange, the responses and conversations are really rewarding.

The Clinical Lead for Neonatal will also contribute to national networks and groups. In my time I’ve worked with the Scottish Perinatal Network, the MANDALS group and Clevermed. Strengthening these relationships have ensured that we’ve been able to take consistent approaches across Scotland and avoided duplication of effort.

I’ve found the support from the project officers to be excellent, and I’ve put many of their ideas into practice. Moreover, the support from the Senior Improvement Advisor has been really helpful. I felt that I wanted to come out with more than just having worked one day a week, so I completed the Scottish Improvement Leader course. The new lead may have some particular area or skill that they want to develop.

Ways of working

I tended to work flexibly, especially in the virtual world which now exists on Teams. Before the pandemic I’d work in Delta House (Glasgow) or Gyle Square (Edinburgh) some days, site visits on other days and at home on some days. Sometimes I’d work whole days, on others it would be broken up across a week trying to average one day a week.

And what advice to my successor as Clinical Lead for Neonatal? There is lots of support from all teams within Healthcare Improvement Scotland, so don’t worry about the practical matters of the job. Enjoy, laugh, and don’t be afraid to voice your opinion. Make the role your own.

Colin Peters is Consultant Neonatologist in Greater Glasgow & Clyde and is the former Clinical Lead for Neonatal for Healthcare Improvement Scotland.

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