I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had at Connect Health anywhere else

Sam McIntyre, Head of Operations North, NHS services tells us about her amazing achievements during her 22-year career at Connect Health, and how she loves the variety, opportunities and the work life balance.

People Stories

I wouldn’t have had the opportunities I’ve had at Connect Health anywhere else, and that’s a big part of the reason I joined, to get those different experiences. I love the variety, as well as the pace and the flexibility.


I had always been interested in working in medicine or healthcare

My dad had several back operations, so I became aware of what physios could do and felt the career would suit me. In 1993 I commenced my physiotherapy degree at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.


I worked at an NHS Trust in Bedfordshire for two years

Following graduation, I completed my physiotherapy junior rotations working part time in a private clinic to save up, before spending eight months travelling. On return, I worked for an NHS Trust for a year in MSK.


I applied for the job at Connect Health in 2000

I liked the idea of a variety of possible career options covering NHS, private clinics or occupational health clinical practice. The Accelerated Development Programme (ADP) also looked really attractive and I completed this and began working as a Senior Physio in GP practices in South Tyneside and Sunderland.

I then began a split role for a number of years delivering occupational health physiotherapy and DSE assessments in multiple businesses, making the most of the variety Connect offered alongside continuing work in primary care.


I became a team leader in NHS services in 2003

I progressed to become a Primary Care Service Manager, managing the Connect Health NHS contracts in the North East. In this role, I was instrumental in implementing our first self-referral and PhysioLine pathways in South Tyneside. It was a novel approach at the time; moving away from GP referrals and balancing that risk by offering rapid access by doing initial patient screening by phone.


PhysioLine provided quick self-referral access, but it needed clinical behaviour change

We took people on the journey, working with GPs, GP reception staff and our clinical team and showing them the benefit of being able to speak to patients really quickly to screen and offer early advice. It provided good patient outcomes and we’ve now standardised the offer within all of our MSK contracts.


In 2007, I led the implementation of our first intermediate CATs services in North Tyneside.

It was a brand new type of service for Connect Health, informed by the guidance on triage and intermediate services in the NHS England MSK Framework. The main aim was to try to reduce unnecessary referrals to secondary care by delivering intermediate community-based care. It has become one of Connect Health’s core service offerings.


I implemented the Newcastle, Gateshead and Sunderland CATs service just before I went on maternity leave in 2008

We moved to the digital EMIS and ErS system and developed our first Patient Care Coordination centre to bring a more effective admin support structure. I was instrumental in developing new clinical digital notes templates, referrals and pathways to facilitate sharing of notes between admin and clinicians. Since then, I proposed and implemented Connect’s first FCP pilot in South Tyneside, and was instrumental in the delivery of our partnership contract with Northumbria Healthcare trust.


I like working with commissioners and the wider healthcare system

I’d like to carry on designing and codeveloping services with multiple stakeholders, working with primary and secondary care services.


I’ve stayed here because there’s always change and a new challenge to keep my interest

I’ve moved from working clinically into a fulltime management role, covering around 30 contracts. The services offer a mix of MSK, pain and rheumatology. Plus, the work-life balance is great – I do a four-day condensed working week.


Working at Connect Health is never boring. It’s dynamic and challenging in a positive way. You get to try things outside of your comfort zone, with lots of support to inform new ways of thinking.


I’m just finishing my MSc in Strategic Leadership at Newcastle University Business School

I was keen to complete an academic course to back up my practical management experience and Connect Health supported this through their apprenticeship scheme. It’s given me new insight on leadership practice and reinforced my belief that being an inclusive, collaborative leader with a natural curiosity to continuously improve, ask questions and adapt and stretch personal boundaries will be even more important as we face new and uncertain challenges ahead in healthcare.


I’m driven by doing a good job

I’m very conscientious and am motivated by trying to provide the best service we can for the population’s needs within the financial constraints we have to work with. I like to make sure my team feels well supported and informed, ensuring they have the information, tools and autonomy to do a good job, whilst striving to constantly improve.


If you’d like to find out more about working at Connect Health, contact people@connecthealth.co.uk

Click here to download Sam McIntyre’s Story