HEADING up a team of thousands of nurses in a town the size of Swindon is no easy task, but it is one that newly appointed chief nurse Hilary Walker has welcomed with open arms.

Hilary, who has been interim chief nurse at GWH since May, was told the job was hers on Friday.

She has replaced Sue Rowley, the former director of nursing and midwifery, who retired earlier this year.

Hilary, originally from south Manchester, completed her nursing training at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birming-ham in 1981 and spent most of her career in the Midlands.

“Since I’ve been in nursing I haven’t ever regretted it,” she said.

“It is a profession that offers massive opportunities, particularly now with the changes in the NHS.

“If you look at any aspect of health care you will find a nurse involved and there aren’t many groups of health professions you can say that about.”

In her role, Hilary will provide leadership for nurses, midwives and other healthcare professionals while ensuring the quality of patient care is the best it can be.

She said that while the level of care given at the GWH is very good, there is always room for improvement and she has already set about implementing a new strategy.

Hilary said: “I don’t provide line management for all of the nurses, I provide leadership.

“Nurses are managed within the services with which they operate – my job really is to set the professional agenda and strategic decisions.

“My visibility in the hospital is really important.

“I always want the nurses to talk to me so I know what is really happening, and they can only talk to me if they know who I am and they feel like they can approach me.

“There are multiple challenges that we are facing which you can see if you look at many front pages of the newspapers these days, with failures in care like Winterbourne View, and rightly so, the public get extremely upset when we get things fundamentally wrong like this.

“But from what I have seen since I’ve been within the organisation in Swindon, most of the time we are delivering really good fundamental care, but we are not perfect and we have been working on a strategy for nursing that has engaged a large number of nurses and we have now got about six different work streams, including improving patient experiences, safety of care and so on.

“There is a lot of energy to start these work streams and I think we will soon start to see some really important improvements.”

Hilary said her first impressions of GWH back in the summer were positive.

“The first time I arrived here I felt there was a real warmth about the place and that is down to the people that work here and I really value that,” she added.

“There’s some real pride amongst the clinical teams, lots of people are really proud of what they do here on a day to day basis and you don’t get that everywhere.”