Paul Smith, Quality and Safety Lead

Tell us a little about your role

I am currently working as Quality and Safety Lead with NHS Forth Valley’s Quality Team. It’s a great team to work with and really rewarding to play a key role in developing the organisation’s quality strategy for the future. My role also involves engaging with many people across health and social care so it’s been a steep learning curve, but a good way to meet many different people and learn so much along the way.

How important is quality and safety within an organisation and how do you get the message out there?

Everything we do, regardless of our role in our organisation, contributes to patient, service user and staff experience. I truly believe that if we focus on quality and safety when we set our priorities, we will improve people’s experiences and ultimately their outcomes. Also by really listening to what is important to service users and staff, and involving them in the design and testing of new ideas, we can make a huge difference to people’s lives. Having a clear strategy for quality that is clearly understood and owned by everyone is a start but we need to be sure that we walk the walk and make improving quality our everyday business.

What is your career background?

I began my career as a mental health nurse with NHS Lothian, working within a number of services including acquired brain injury, Huntington’s Disease and mental health. I’ve never been willing to accept the status quo, always wanting to explore ways to improve care. This led to me joining the Scottish Improvement Leader’s programme in 2015. Since then I have been in quality improvement roles working with Healthcare Improvement Scotland supporting improvements in care for people living with frailty before returning to NHS Lothian as an improvement advisor with the mental health quality improvement programme. I joined NHS Forth Valley in June 2019, initially to work with the Emergency Department before moving to my current role in March 2020. I still consider myself a nurse before anything else and remain committed to improving experiences for people who use our services. This role gives me a chance to play a small part in this.

Suits or sweatshirts?

Suits for sure, I don’t even own a sweatshirt though I never wear a tie unless it’s a special event!

Favourite breakfast?

Peanut butter on bagels, I can’t get enough of them.

Biggest influencer in your life?

My wife is my biggest influencer. Katy also works in the NHS, so we are constantly bouncing ideas off each other. I know that she will give me good advice and a straight answer with no messing about.

If you could travel the world – where would you choose to go?

Japan, Japan, Japan!! We had it all booked up for Easter 2020 but, due to lockdown, we had to cancel. It just means we will add an extra week onto the journey – once we eventually get there!

Stand out moment?

Becoming a Dad. It brings it all into perspective. Life was never the same once they appeared, especially lie-ins – they are definitely a thing of the past!

Paths you wish you had, or had not, taken?

I think everything happens for a reason. I tried my hand as a butcher before studying chemistry and business studies for a couple of years. I also looked into working offshore in the oil industry before going into nursing. Everything I have done has taken me to where I am just now so I have no regrets.

What would you tell your 16 year old self?

Don’t stress if you don’t know what you want to do just now. Get out there and experience life. Explore your ideas but most of all be happy in what you are doing.

How have you coped in the current pandemic?

It was a bit of a roller coaster at the beginning. Not being sure what was happening from day-to-day was difficult, as we looked at how we could best add value to our work. Fast forward 9 months and we are settling into a new norm where working from home, using MS Teams and wearing face masks are second nature and, at this time, the default. I do think it has had an impact on the children’s learning and it’s very unnerving when the impact of the pandemic effects you closer to home. Getting out in the fresh air for family walks with our dog Daisy helps. Joining the Joe Wicks 90-day plan was interesting! Virtual ‘nights in’ with friends seems normal now. It’s also encouraged us to get the Christmas decorations up extra early this year (for the kids of course!).

Where do you see yourself in 10 years time?

I definitely see myself remaining within a quality improvement role. I enjoy working within a NHS Board as you are that much closer to what is happening on the ground. However I will be living back in Edinburgh as my kids will have grown up by then.