Paula Shandran talks about her role protecting children and adults as the safeguarding lead at Northumbria Healthcare
I’ve worked in safeguarding for the last 17 years and I’ve been the head of safeguarding for children and adults at Northumbria for the past three years.
My role is all about safeguarding children and adults across our hospitals and in the wider community. Essentially, we’re looking for signs of abuse and harm and as a registered social worker I bring all that experience with me.
It’s a strategic role, but I also get involved on the ground and my job is to make sure as many people as possible are safe and that we’ve reduced their risks or prevented further abuse.
We have lots of support services for patients and staff and we look at safeguarding as a holistic approach. In Northumbria we have a multi-disciplinary safeguarding team made up of lots of different professionals to support people.
As well as the public I also have responsibility for our own staff which can involve things like domestic abuse or investigating allegations made by patients.
Sadly, the most common thing we encounter for children is neglect, but also what we call the ‘toxic trio’ of mental health, drug or alcohol abuse and domestic violence.
Self-neglect is another growing problem which has been exacerbated by the impact of Covid19 and the national lock down. We’ve seen much more of this during the pandemic and I think I’ve seen some of the saddest situations of my career during the past few months.
Of course, these cases can be very upsetting personally for me, my team and all the staff involved. They do still affect me emotionally even after all these years.
Covid19 is having a huge impact on mental health which is often what we call hidden harm and we’ve also seen a continuing rise in domestic abuse.
Despite this the safeguarding team are more involved with patients than we’ve ever been and have been introducing lots of things to support people on the ground, including an extended hours service.
We work really closely with other agencies such as the police, ambulance service and local authorities to build a full picture of events so that we can protect as many people as possible.
It’s very important that we keep children and adults safe from abuse and help them improve their lives. I learn from every case because there’s no stronger message than the patient voice.
A&E is a key area because lots of people access these services for medical problems. Often a focus is on the medical issue which can divert attention from underlying safeguarding issues.
People are more likely to disclose an issue they have – like domestic violence – to a healthcare professional so it’s a really important way of supporting and helping people at the right time.