Learning nuggets from NHS Wakefield District

October 2012

Making the Link has been mentoring the NHS Wakefield District public health team to help them maintain momentum and focus in their child accident prevention work. Mentor Ian Evans shares a few helpful pointers about keeping local partnerships engaged and adapting to new organisational structures.

Our October 2011 case study explored how NHS Wakefield District has been taking a joined-up approach to getting better intelligence on childhood accidents, to support the development of highly targeted accident prevention campaigns. The work was led by Jane Stark, health improvement practitioner specialist, who we featured in a March 2011 case study.

With Jane on maternity leave, Making the Link’s mentoring partnership began in spring 2012, when NHS Wakefield District appointed Laura Henry as Health Improvement Practitioner – Specialist Public Health – Children and Young People. Laura’s role was to lead on this aspect of health improvement work. She came to the role with a great deal of experience in public health, although she was new to the field of childhood unintentional injury prevention. NHS Wakefield District asked Making the Link to provide mentoring support to help maintain momentum in its child accident prevention work and also to support the public health team in the run-up to a transfer across to the local authority in autumn 2012.

“The Wakefield District is an area which has benefited from the health authority’s foresight in establishing and maintaining a child injury prevention coordinator post – one of the key NICE recommendations for unintentional injury prevention”, Ian says. “The local prevention needs are clear and this commitment at all levels is vital.”

Getting up to speed on the issues

CAPT’s mentoring involvement has focused on supporting the continued case for action and an understanding of local data and opportunities. Ian says that for any professional starting out in the field of child accident prevention, it’s important to recognise that you can’t be an expert in all of the issues – you need to know when and how to work with other professionals. “What you need is a sound understanding of the overall picture in your area, including the links with childhood inequalities and poverty, as well as knowledge of the organisations and individuals that you’ll need to bring together to achieve your goals,” he explains.

Understanding how unintentional injuries in childhood relate to inequalities and poverty is an essential part of prevention work. “These are complex issues and will look different in every area, but the connections need to be made. Work on inequalities at a national level has already made the links clear, but they need to be explored locally too.”

Keeping local partnerships energised

Wakefield District has a well-established working group on child accident prevention. Ian points out that maintaining a high level of engagement and commitment among any group of partners can be challenging at times – and particularly during periods of significant organisational change. “It’s important to keep open the channels of communication with local accident prevention champions and stakeholders, and to find new ways of staying in touch,” comments Ian.

"One of the ideas we came up with for the Wakefield District working group was to develop a communication which could keep the various different stakeholders engaged with local developments as well as the national drivers for action on child accident prevention. Now that the move into the local authority has taken place, this will be circulating shortly”.

Ian also took part in a stakeholder training workshop organised by Laura which brought together representatives from children’s centres, the NHS, the fire and rescue service and local voluntary and community sector groups.

Transition to local authority structures

With public health teams transitioning from the NHS to local authorities, Ian recommends that anyone involved in childhood unintentional injury prevention tries to develop their understanding of local authority roles and responsibilities. “Without this understanding, it can be hard to get a grip on how to embed child safety into all of the relevant policy areas, from housing to transport,” says Ian. “I anticipate that, in time, local health and wellbeing boards will be able to provide valuable support with this, but they need the information and awareness to ensure that the issue is on what may be a very crowded agenda.”

Ian adds: “It’s not about health practitioners moving into the local authority and taking over roles – it’s about adding value, frontline experience and specialist expertise to work that spans a range of responsibilities for the health, safety and wellbeing of children and young people. Public health teams bring with them considerable knowledge of families and communities, as well as strong connections with children’s services and health visiting teams. Together, they can make a difference.”

What we can learn

  • Work with other professionals and organisations in your area to explore the local connections between poverty, inequality and unintentional injuries in childhood. 
  • During times of transition, maintain communication with local partners and consider new ways of staying in touch and keeping people engaged.
  • Developing your understanding of local authority roles and responsibilities could help you when it comes to embedding child safety into relevant policy areas and getting child unintentional injury prevention recognised as a priority.
Updated February 2014