Ben Hill, Head of Urgent and Integrated Care
Anyone working in A&E will testify to the enormous daily demands faced in the workplace, but it can be just as hard juggling home life and relationships when one partner frequently works long, unsociable hours and trauma and stress comes with the job description. Imagine then, what must it be like when both partners work on the front line of the NHS?
Ben Hill - a senior Matron and emergency nurse practitioner for most of his 21 years in healthcare - met his GP wife Laura at the Royal Surrey County Hospital soon after they’d both qualified. Within five months they were engaged and they married a year later.
“I think it’s common for people to meet their other halves through work,” says Ben. “I think it helps to have a partner who understands the challenges of working in the NHS, doing shifts and being on call. Surprisingly we don’t constantly discuss work at home but it is nice to be able to talk through the issues we face and get a fresh perspective from the person that knows me best.”
Life in the Emergency Department definitely has its fair share of challenges, not least the management of A&E waiting times over some of the worst winters on record for the NHS.
“The four hour target for A&E (introduced in 2004, pledging at least 95% of patients should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours) brought about a massive change in how we deliver emergency care,” Ben explains. “Prior to the quality care indicators, patients could stay in the ED for days before going to a ward. Nursing patients in corridors was commonplace. Of course it can still happen in extreme circumstances as a result of surge in demand, high level of ambulance conveyance and poor flow through the system.”
“As a Matron, leading a team of 100 nurses, I’ve experienced some of the most challenging winters. Trying to lead the emergency floor through that - ensuring the wellbeing of your team, while trying to recover four hour performance and handover delays - was extremely difficult. This was before the system approach to winter, working with all providers to ensure better flow of patients and reduction in delays. Back then it felt rather like A&E got the brunt.”
Inspired by wife Laura, now Clinical Chair at Crawley CCG (part of Central Sussex and East Surrey Commissioning Alliance) Ben made the move into commissioning and sits at the heart of system and resilience planning as Head of Urgent and Integrated Care for the Surrey Heartlands CCGs.
“I still miss the team of nurses I left and the buzz of the hospital, but now have a far greater knowledge of the wider NHS, the interdependencies of the component parts, and am better placed to influence the changes I could see needed to happen.”