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Monday 18 January 2021
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Marie Roberts uniform

Nurse wins prestigious accolade in the year of the nurse

A nurse who has empowered care home, hospital and community staff to provide excellent oral care to patients has won a prestigious nursing award in the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust palliative care nurse Marie Roberts started the CHORUS programme – CHampioning ORal care in CommUnity Services, and her passion and commitment has seen it grow until it is improving oral health not only for those at the end of life but for all.

For the outstanding work, Marie has been named winner of the NHS England- sponsored General Practice and Community Nursing category of the RCNi Nurse Awards.

The profession’s top accolade for nursing excellence attracted almost 700 entries this year, the International Year of the Nurse and Midwife.

Marie said she is ‘overjoyed’ to win. “It is recognition of the hard work the team and I have completed and the support we received from the trust,” she added.

“It is not only for everyone who has contributed to the project and is improving oral care in Salford, but also for everyone who receives good oral care in the future.

“It will shine a light on good oral care and hopefully will spark an interest in other nurses. Together we can continue to make changes and improve our patient care.”

Deputy chief nursing officer for England Hilary Garratt said: “I’m so delighted to see Marie receive this award. It’s a testament to the innovative and skillful care that community and general practice nurses deliver every day, which makes a huge difference to so many.”

In 2016, Marie treated a care home resident who was not eating or drinking and had generally declined over the previous few days.

Marie said: “It was evident that he had a terrible problem with thrush.

“With treatment, the man started to get much better and started to eat and drink again.

She added: “Most patients who were approaching the end of life had a dry, odorous mouth. It was worrying that those were the lasting memories of people – that they weren't able to kiss their loved one goodbye because their mouth was so dry and cracked.

“A mouth ulcer is not documented but if you've got an ulcer on your leg it's documented and reviewed on a regular basis. Other people know about it. It's about making sure people understand that the mouth is at the gateway to everything. We eat, we drink, we speak, we kiss our loved ones, and it's important that we identify those problems.

“It's an airway, but none of us had had any specific training on how to provide oral healthcare. We needed to make a change urgently.”

A multidisciplinary working group – including Salford Safeguarding Provider Forum, the community dental team and company RIS Healthcare – met monthly. The result was a comprehensive oral hygiene resource file and training for care homes.

A second audit four months after the training and resource file were implemented showed a significant increase in the number of prescriptions, mainly made up of treatment for thrush and also for dry mouth.

“Those who are approaching end of life now will be prescribed something so they can have a comfortable mouth without any dryness,” said Marie.

One of the care homes that took part in the pilot was the Broughtons Care Home, whose manager Amanda Collins describes the training as a ‘joy’.

“The confidence it gave to the staff is unbelievable,’ she said. “Every member enjoyed it and enthusiastically took it forward. Now residents have a happy, healthy mouth. When the Care Quality Commission recently came for an unannounced inspection the inspectors were really impressed with the oral care training and the knowledge staff had.”

Marie said it became clear that oral care needed improving throughout all care services.

Judge Ruth Oshikanlu, chief executive of Goal Mind, a Queen’s Nurse and a fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting and of the RCN, agrees: “A simple and sustainable project with great impact. Marie was proactive in making a difference to the community she serves and is a strong champion for the staff of care homes.

‘Now each care home and district nursing team in Greater Manchester has received training and has been provided with a handheld resource. Marie epitomises great leadership in her commitment, relentless drive and personal sacrifice, while placing residents’ and patients’ safety and quality care first.

Palliative and end of life care practice development lead Victoria McLoughlin nominated Marie for the award. She said: “This working group would not have evolved without the determination and commitment of Marie. She recognised a deficit and actioned an organisational group, training and evaluation as well as continuing with her full-time palliative care role.”