Katie Fox, Team leader and Specialist Hand Therapist in Herts Valleys, talks about her transition from the NHS to Connect.
I was excited by the prospect of moving to Connect. I’d got to the point where I was very fed up and my career prospects were limited.
I knew from a relatively young age I wanted to do physio
As a young child, I did a lot of gymnastics, so I was attracted to working around sports or injury prevention. I knew I didn’t want an office-based career, and my aunt was a physio at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital, so she set up some work experience for me and it all started from there.
I did a physio degree at Salford University
My now husband got a job in Hertfordshire so when I finished my degree I joined him and got a job in the QE2 Hospital in Welwyn Garden City. I started as a junior physio in 2002, doing rotations, and absolutely loved it.
I knew quite quickly I didn’t want to work on the wards
I wanted to concentrate on physio and rehab, so at the end of my junior physio role, I moved to a senior physio role in outpatients.
That was when I started to get involved in hand therapy
I ended up working closely with an OT that specialised in hand therapy, and I learnt a lot from her. From this I took the opportunity to work in the A&E fracture clinic, making splints for outpatients and giving them exercises. So for a time, I was working half the time in outpatients and half the time in hand therapy.
I became a Band 7 therapist in 2011
I was working part-time at St Albans city hospital and had a really good team of hand therapists working for me.
I was TUPE’d across to Connect in February 2018
There was a lot of uncertainty about it from staff at the time, who were concerned about the prospect of working for a private company and how it might impact on locations and job roles. It turned out that I work out of only two places, and I’m able to juggle travel time and childcare with no problem.
The service is different now, but it’s not a bad thing in my eyes
Two of my colleagues left, one retired and one was relocated, but we no longer see wrist fractures so the smaller team is fine. We focus on the post-operative side of things now. It’s changed our case load, but I find the trauma side of things more interesting than repetitive strains.
Working at Connect is very different to working in the NHS but not in a bad way.
They don’t just listen to your ideas, they act on them
My colleague Danielle used to do joint protection classes, which stopped when we moved to Connect, but they’ve been very supportive of them being restarted. I’d like to get an APP role in hand therapy, so we don’t have to refer for scans and x-rays and go via the CATs service. It would save patients time, and save money. So I’m looking into justifying it, and I know it will be properly considered.
I like all the little benefits you get
There are staff rewards and regular recognition, so everyone feels valued. And there are lots of social events supported by Connect, which is great for staff motivation and morale.
People have preconceptions about working for a private company, but there are great opportunities
We’ve lost some staff, which is normal when you move over to a new service. And I understand that some people just want to work in the NHS. But although it can be unsettling at first, I’d advise anyone to use the benefits of Connect to their advantage. It gives you the opportunity to be more innovative and have input into the way you work. There’s also great training available. If you are proactive and ambitious it’s a really good place to work.
There’s a lot more communication at Connect. They listen to what the staff think, are keen to get our ideas and quick to react to them.
Information gets filtered down much quicker than it ever has in the NHS
I’m a team lead; we have weekly meetings with the manager so we’re always kept in the loop with what’s happening nationally and regionally. It’s really nice to know what’s happening, and great for staff to have the information straight away rather than hear about it on the grapevine.
The in-service training is really structured
Because we are such a small team and hand therapy is so focused, we have developed our own programme for the next six months. We’ve also developed good links with the SWEX hand therapy team, and so we now have regional in-service training internally every six months. This wouldn’t have happened before, as we didn’t know any other hand therapy teams locally.
Hand Therapy Service
We are specialists who diagnose and treat hand therapy disorders effectively, as well as custom made splinting, wound management, oedema (different compression and taping techniques to manage swelling) and the management of CRPS – complex regional pain syndrome.
If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
You can download Katie Fox’s Story here