"I like to help individuals to develop their own self-esteem and their confidence - to help them be the best they can be. It’s about valuing people in whatever they do whatever they have been through."
Sheila Luttman has worked for the NHS for 22 years in a variety of roles and is passionate about the progress she has seen in her career and the development opportunities available to staff. Here is her story:
"When I started work I really wanted to be a nurse but at 16 I was too young to go into nurse training so I started working at Nat West Bank initially as a stop gap. Of course earning money took hold and it didn’t feel like such a good idea to leave paid work and go into nurse training, so it never happened. That has always been something I’ve regretted.
"After an extended and varied career in banking spanning an 18 year period, I took voluntary redundancy. A year later, in 1996, I saw a job advert for someone to run the cashier’s office at the Maudsley Hospital which seemed to fit well with my finance background but also offered an opening into healthcare.
"I really enjoyed the job, and was given the opportunity to develop the service and the financial processes around money management for patients working with the finance team. This was the best part for me and I loved the interaction with staff and service users. After two years an opportunity came up for a trainee management accountant based at Bethlem and I moved into the main finance department, doing that until I decided to move out of London and relocate to Hastings in 2001.
"I got a job working as a clinical governance facilitator, responsible for the mental health service (then part of the acute trust) within Hastings and Rother NHS Trust. I did that for two years until Hastings and Rother merged with Eastbourne and became East Sussex County Healthcare NHS Trust.
"In 2003 an opportunity came up for a care programme approach (CPA) co-ordinator in East Sussex, and at the time I really wanted to get back into working with clinical services as I missed the interaction with service users. I was successful and that role morphed into the overarching CPA development and training lead, a role which I did for twelve years. Within this role I worked with operational teams and took on responsibility for developing policy, practice and training in this area initially in the east but ultimately Trustwide. During this time I became an active member of the national body, the CPA Association, representing the Trust and acting as a regional representative for London and the South East, ultimately sitting on the CPAA committee as the secretary for a number of years.
"At this point I was part of the education and training team and eventually structures changed within the Trust and the CPA lead role disappeared. I was moved in a role as learning and development business partner, working with services to identify and develop training opportunities, this role then turned into the education and training lead role for mandatory and statutory training (MaST).
"Within this role I manage the Trust induction process and other MaST areas, working closely with delivery partners. In April 2017, I took up an opportunity to go on secondment as education and training project manager, overseeing a range of Health Education Kent, Surrey and Sussex (HEEKSS) funded projects and supporting the project leads to deliver the anticipated outcomes.
"I enjoy the variation and different focus of this role and find it interesting working with different partners.
"I have seen lots of changes in the NHS over the years. One of the biggest changes I have seen is in technology. Back in 1996, when I first started working in the NHS as a cashier, patient’s money was still being recorded in leather bound ledgers! It was a big shock for me, after working in banking where I had been using computers since 1977. I was surprised how behind technology-wise the NHS was back then and, even for the next seven or eight years it didn’t seem to move on that quickly.
"One of the high points in my NHS career so far has been being able to support services to take part in the national CPAA Good Practice awards, highlighting some of the excellent practice going on in the trust and raising awareness of Sussex Partnership on a national platform. We received highly commended accolades in 2012 (Excellence in CPA Policy and Practice/ Excellence in CPA Training) and were awarded the Good Practice Award in 2013 under best example of care planning. It was great to get recognition from our peers and be able to share the good practice going on in Sussex, knowing that we were doing a good and valuable job, and making a difference to people’s lives.
"Another thing I’m proud of is the way we have developed the Trust induction process. We’ve really turned it around from people just having to sit through numerous power-point presentations about policy. Now it’s much more interactive and focuses on new starters understanding who we are as an organisation, who we exist for and how everyone has a role to play in supporting those who use our services, especially those not in a front facing role. The importance of corporate roles is often underestimated but by supporting people on the frontline by ensuring they don’t have to worry about getting paid or accessing training or having the right IT equipment is vital to ensure that practitioners can get on with the job they trained to do. The programme was co-developed and is co-delivered with service users and carers and I am very proud of it. It also recognises the value of staff supporting each other and looking after themselves, regardless of role.
"The best thing about working for the NHS is the variety. I like to be connected with carers and people who use our services. Working with them and looking at what’s it’s like to be on the other end of our services. I like to help individuals to develop their own self-esteem and their confidence - to help them be the best they can be. It’s about valuing people in whatever they do whatever they have been through.
"It’s also about the rewards you get. It’s not easy and every job has challenges. There’s never enough money, time or staff but the rewards overshadow that. The value you get as a person from helping other people is amazing. I do think you have to be a certain type of person, it’s not for everyone.
"You get lots of opportunities working for the NHS. There are always changes and it never stays the same but that’s the nature of the beast. I have been given a lot of opportunities to develop from when I started to where I am now, sometimes by choice, other times by necessity due to structural changes. You have the option to walk along the stepping stones and go in lots of different directions, you only learn which one is for you as you walk along the path.
"I’ve been in the NHS 22 years this year. You don’t stay that long unless you feel there is a way forward. I’m coming to the end of my journey in a full time way but I won’t be going anywhere. I’ll stay on the Bank. It would be a waste if I didn’t use all the experience I have gained over the years. It would be a terrible loss to the NHS if everyone who reached retirement age retired and didn’t continue to use their expertise and share their knowledge and experience.
"Being part of the NHS instils a sense of compassion in you. You see people at their lowest – service users and colleagues. It’s about being there for people. It takes a certain type of person to find their niche and stick at it. The rewards of working in the NHS are immense, despite the day to day issues you may come across and I can’t imagine not being part of it in some way. I didn’t intentionally set out to work in mental health, but I am so glad that’s where I ended up."