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Supporting screening services is always interesting and always busy

I've been a quality assurance (QA) advisor since October 2015, having previously worked in the screening and immunisation team for Public Health England.

A closeup photo of Melanie Little
QA advisor Melanie Little

I work in the young person and adult programmes, covering diabetic eye screening (DES) and abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) screening. Some weeks I'll be in my Bristol office base every day; others I’ll mostly be out at meetings. Other QA advisors in the screening quality assurance service (SQAS) team in Bristol cover the cancer and antenatal and newborn programmes, so there’s a good mix of knowledge and resources here.

In this blog post I describe a fairly typical recent working day.

I start by checking emails and reminding myself of meetings I've planned.

I'd recently organised a QA forum in the South West for commissioning teams and DES providers – including clinical leads, failsafe staff, programme managers, screeners and graders. The forum brought together local programmes for a national update and a chance to share learning. After reviewing feedback from the forum, I share some suggested changes and agenda topics with colleagues in the South East who are planning a similar event.

Tomorrow, there's a programme board meeting with a DES provider, so I print off the papers that will be reviewed there. I read them and highlight areas of concern. I also check my travel arrangements so I’m sure I know where I’m going!

One of my colleagues is on annual leave soon so I book a video conference with her so she can brief me on what I need to know while she's away. I want to be fully prepared going into serious incident meetings that she has been leading on because DES incidents are often complex. This handover ensures we give a consistent message across QA.

Just before lunch I head off by train for several meetings. After lunch with a screening and immunisation team, I have a meeting with the AAA commissioners. I couldn't attend their programme board yesterday due to a conflicting appointment so I run through the papers with them. The programme is running well, so no actions for me. I note the date of the next meeting and make it a priority to attend.

I then meet a screening and immunisation coordinator who works on DES. We've been working together with a provider that recently had a QA visit which led to a number of recommendations. SQAS and the commissioners monitor progress and agree when actions can be closed. We have a teleconference with the provider and run through the latest action plan. The provider gives us some updates and has sent evidence to review. We agree a number of actions can be closed. We end the call by booking in another meeting for 6 weeks’ time to repeat the process to ensure progress is maintained and all actions are completed on time.

My final meeting of the day is a DES serious incident meeting attended by stakeholders including the screening and immunisation team, SQAS, the provider and GP practices.

This incident is nearly closed. We agree the next actions for the incident group and review the draft report. Some of the work from this incident is very useful and can be applied to other local screening services. We ask permission from the provider organisation to share some of the documentation with other services to help them manage similar incidents, or reduce the risk of them happening. DES providers can learn a lot from each other and SQAS often helps them share knowledge and experience as we cover large areas with multiple providers.

That’s all my meetings done for the day, so it’s back to Bristol and home for the evening.

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