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A day in the life of Helen Simmonds

Hello, my name is Helen Simmonds and I am one of the advisers working at PCC. I have been with the organisation in my current role for nearly four years, having previously worked as an associate providing specialist support since 2008.

Helen Simmonds

Someone asked me the other day what was my dream job when I was growing up; I replied in an instant a paramedic, although discovered in my teenage years on a trip to the vet with my beloved dog that perhaps I didn’t have the right disposition to realise my planned career path! I guess that is why I have ended up doing this job, supporting the NHS.

I have worked in the NHS for over 20 years and started as a financial management trainee in South Wales. After working for several years specialising in financial management in the acute sector I started working in primary care.

Within PCC I am the regional lead for Wales and support the Midlands region in England, which is quite a wide and diverse area of the country. As well as regional responsibilities each adviser has a lead workstream area; mine is premises.

We have been commissioned by NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) national premises team to provide a package of support including introductory training for commissioners on premises matters; exploring the rent reimbursement process for GP premises, improvement grants and an overview of the NHS (General Medical Services – Premises Costs) Directions 2013. We have delivered eight of these programmes virtually over the last six months, to over 250 delegates. We have received lot of interest in this programme, so we will be running it again in the next few months. Keep an eye out on our events calendar for the date.

It is an exciting time for premises. The introduction of the additional roles reimbursement scheme (ARRS) means the numbers of staff based in primary care are set to increase. However, we know that in many cases the estate is not equipped to meet the policy ambitions set out in the Long-Term Plan. Findings from the 2019 GP premises and GP partnership reviews indicated that half of all GP-owned estate is not ‘fit for purpose’, whilst a staggering 80% is not ‘fit for the future’. The reviews also highlighted the link between declining GP numbers and high levels of personal property liability associated with the current GP partnership model. So, there is lots of work to be done.

We are supporting the NHSE&I national premises team with a number of workstreams including a series of blogs from individuals across the country who work on premises projects, including the pioneer Cavell Centres. These will be launched on our website in the coming weeks. We’ll let you know in our newsletters when they’re published.

We are working with several PCNs, helping them to develop premises plans to support the delivery of their clinical strategies. With the increasing demand on space we need to think of ways of how we best utilise what is available, taking the learning from COVID-19 and ensuring that we move forward with modern, flexible and adaptable premises to deliver care from.

Another significant part of the support and my daily activities is the dedicated premises helpdesk which has been commissioned by NHSE&I for all regional teams and CCGs to access for advice (until 31 July 2021) Any commissioner can contact for advice on a specific premises query.

I also support our dental team in the delivery of dental training, helpdesk and surgery advice sessions for all matters dental. We currently provide a dedicated helpdesk for all dental contractors and commissioners in England to answer queries about the year-end reconciliation arrangements for 2020/21, and more recently the contracting arrangements for the first half of the 2021/22 financial year. To date, we have answered over 1100 queries and counting! This support has also included recorded webinars setting out the year-end process and calculations, and commissioner workshops.

Finally, last but certainly not least is my role as the regional lead for Wales. Over the last few years, we have increased our support to the Health Boards and the clusters, as well as support to Public Health Wales for a series of leadership programmes. In the coming weeks, I will be preparing to deliver a series of personal resilience sessions with practice teams in several clusters. These will be delivered via MS teams and will explore and identify what causes workplace stress and identify tools and strategies to develop personal resilience

So, what does my day look like? I think it can be summed up as busy and varied!