After working for the NHS for almost 19 years, I made the move last month to leave and join the Scottish Government. I should add that this ‘big career change’ has the safety net of a 2 year secondment agreement, which made it far less scary! I loved my substantive post is as a Practice Development Dietitian for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde which made my decision to apply for my new role a very difficult one. So what made me do it? An email popped into my inbox with details of the opportunity to work for the Scottish Government as a Diabetes Improvement Lead. I saw this as a fantastic opportunity to step back into the world of diabetes care and make a positive impact at a national level. I’ve been really passionate about supporting people with diabetes for many years; I was previously a diabetes dietitian and completed a Masters in Diabetes Care and Management. I also love Quality Improvement – so this role, with plenty of scope for QI, just seemed too good an opportunity not go for.
The role isn’t a dietetic one, but I definitely bring my dietetic perspective and reflect a lot on my own experiences and also what I understand of other HCPs roles. My years of being a dietitian in the NHS means I also understand patient pathways and have a some insight into the journey people living with diabetes face. I’m also not letting go of my figurative dietitian’s hat as I’ve continued doing a small amount of clinical dietetic work…keeping my hand in, so to speak.
I’m not very long in the new role – but so far, so good! It’s definitely been a steep learning curve which involves learning some new lingo and also understanding more about the politics of healthcare. The team I’m working with have been really supportive, which helps a lot.
So, what does a Diabetes Improvement Lead do? Ultimately my role centres around delivering the commitments made within the recently refreshed Diabetes Improvement Plan. This Scottish Government Plan is ambitious, quite rightly, so this can feel a tad overwhelming! I’m working with lots of passionate colleagues who are helping to guide me and it’s been exciting to be able to discuss our ideas. I’m developing a work plan and lots of Quality Improvement project plans, working up bids for funding and inputting to the development of care pathways. It’s amazing how the ‘to do’ lists we start seem to grow exponentially! I get to work with civil servants, health care professionals, people working in the third sector and most importantly – people living with diabetes.
I’m sure I’m not alone when I say that I feel genuinely upset and worried about people who have been living with a long-term condition during the COVID-19 pandemic. Life is hard enough, then add fear of contracting the virus, increased risk of severe covid, social isolation, depression, anxiety, difficulty accessing services…. the list goes on. We know that many services had to pause their usual delivery, this means that many people with diabetes haven’t been able to have their annual health screening checks or benefit from support and education. What feels really positive though is to have the opportunity to be able to play a part to work with the diabetes community to make things better for people living with diabetes in Scotland.
Valerie Laszlo, Diabetes Improvement Lead, Scottish Government.
Follow Valerie on twitter @ValerieLaszlo