Denis Parkes, Volunteer
WHO would have imagined the little tousled haired girl running wild and free through Dartmouth Park in the seventies, would grow into the sophisticated woman who today manages integrated care services for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals?
Ruth Williams (42) is a born and bred local, who takes daily delight in her role helping people to get back to the life they want to live no matter how long it takes. As manager of ICares she works with nurses and therapists to help patients recover after illness such as a fall, stroke or Parkinson’s.
She explained: “My aim is to ensure our patients have everything they need to help themselves for the rest of their life. We try and stop people coming into hospital if there is a better place to treat them, and we can also see people as soon as they leave hospital to ensure they don’t have to go back in. We will try and help the person get back to activities they want to do, which may be walking outside, going to the pub or enjoying their garden.
“As a one stop service for people at home, we try not to pass patients around services unless we agree with them it’s the right thing for their care. We don’t see people forever, as we equip them to look after themselves, by providing the support they need to live independently, but we will always see someone again if they need us.”
Training as a speech and language therapist 20 years ago, Ruth started working at Rowley Regis Hospital in the early 90s, where she set up a self-help group for people with communication problems (Speakability) that to this day still meets every month. She was also instrumental in setting up then redesigning the speech and language service, so it is now a nationally recognised speech therapy rapid response service. It ensures people with swallowing problems, who are at the end of their lives can be seen the same day at home, rather than having to come into hospital.
Working right across Sandwell, the ICares service covers every person who has a Sandwell GP, including those who live in care homes.
Ruth recalled: “I remember the first lady I helped to stay at home at the end of her life rather than going into hospital to die. Her family told me later she was surrounded by her family, it was peaceful for both her and her family.
“I suppose it was inevitable I would end up in the health service as my hero growing up was my nan. A Sandwell woman, she had an exciting life, and always survived what life threw at her. She was fiercely independent, a little bit rude and worked in the NHS in the General at Birmingham when it started until the late 70s.
“Now, every day is different, every day is a challenge and I work with great people who all want to make a difference to the people of Sandwell. What better reason is there to get up in the morning?”