Say hello to our new Director of Nursing and Professions, Nichola Sanderson

Nichola, who recently took over from Cathy Woffendin, worked her way up from being a mental health staff nurse within wards and community teams in the northwest of England, following her initial training in Manchester where she qualified in 2002. She joined LYPFT as Deputy Director of Nursing in April 2017 from Cumbria Partnership NHS Trust. In this blog, we find out a bit more about her, as well as her priorities for her first year in post. And there’s an open invitation to front line teams . . .  

Nichola Sanderson sitting on a bench outsideHello,

The first thing I would like you to know about me is that I am passionate about caring for people with mental health and learning disability needs. I’m very lucky to have chosen a profession, which has become a vocation, that I love.

I’m utterly grateful to have a job as a nurse that has given me so much growth and development whilst being able to care for and support both service users and colleagues, and to now represent the nursing and professions workforce is a real privilege and honour that still sinking in.

I am proud of the clinical journey I have taken from being a mental health nurse to where I am now and will do all I can to serve and support our staff and people who care for and use our services.

Whilst I’ve worked at LYPFT since 2017, I’ve never moved away from my native Greater Manchester and still commute here from Bury.

At home, I’m outnumbered – as I live with my partner, a son currently taking his GCSEs, and two male cats. Much of my spare time is taken with supporting my sons’ sporting activities and I tend to spend many of my weekend hours on the side of a football pitch. I always prioritise time for myself too and like to run (very slowly) as a way of keeping some level of fitness and enjoy the benefits this gives me for my own mental wellbeing.

I’m a naturally shy person, which may shock some people! However, I work really hard to overcome this and push myself out of my comfort zone. The exception to this is if you get me on one of my pet subjects and then you’ll struggle to keep me quiet!

So, now we’ve got some conversation starters!


When I was interviewed for this role, I was asked the following:

What are the key components to deliver high quality, safe care for our service users and carers and how will you ensure these are in place?

Now I’m in post my answers to the panel are pretty much the same as they are now.

My focus is going to be on:

  • Our values and behaviours – and how we live and role model them,
  • Equity and inclusion,
  • Support and compassion,
  • Knowledge and safety, and
  • Teamwork!

My official title is Director of Nursing and Professions. Nursing, including health support workers, is the biggest profession in the Trust, so representing them at Board level is going to be a big part of the day job. I also represent Allied Health Professionals and Psychologists – ably supported by dedicated professional leaders in Marie-Clare Trevett and Sharon Prince, respectively.

I want our staff to feel confident and well supported, with the right skills and knowledge to take on the challenges they face.

So, I’m going to be looking at career pathways immediately to make sure we’re growing our workforce in the right way. This will include our bank workforce, and how we’re supporting them to fulfil their potential.

Quality is everyone’s business

Those who’ve been paying attention will have noticed that I’ve dropped the word “quality” from my job title. My view is that quality is everyone’s business, not just something that we outsource to a team, department, directorate, or service line.

We all have a role to play in improving the quality of the services we provide – whether they be clinical or support services. I want to make sure that, as a Trust, we’re helping those looking to improve quality and safety with the skills and resources they need.

The majority of our services are inspected by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). A big part of my role is to maintain our CQC compliance and readiness. And I’m expecting them to visit us within the next 12 months!

In 2019 we were awarded a rating of “good” overall for the first time since the CQC was formed. Our ambition is to achieve outstanding – an official rating to match what goes on in services day in, day out.

My call to arms is for everyone to be ready to tell a good story about your team or service when they arrive. It’s our chance to showcase what we do, and to rightly be proud.

It doesn’t mean ignoring the things that are challenging or things we’re not so strong on. Far from it. It means knowing what they are, acknowledging them, and having a good plan in place to improve them.

“How I contribute to improving the experience of service users and carers”

As part of our efforts to be accountable to the public, every Trust Board member has to write a short paragraph on this subject which is posted on our website.

Another of my main roles is to listen to, and act on, feedback from service users and carers.

We do this in a number of ways from official inspections and surveys, to being connected to our front-line teams and understanding what it feels like on the ground.

Our Patient Experience Team plays a vital role in this work, and I’ll be attending a meeting of our Service User Network (SUN) as soon as I can.

On the subject of being connected to our front-line teams, I’d like to extend an open invitation.

Like any executive director I want to be out and about in services as much as I can, but in a meaningful way.

As a registered nurse, I’m able to come into a service and do a shift as I’ve done recently with our community mental health teams. Or I’d be happy to sit and have a brew, attend a team meeting, or whatever works for you.

The other opportunity I’m keen to promote is career conversations, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me or any of the deputy directors and professional heads of nursing allied health and psychology.

We’re all busy and the last thing I want to do is get in the way or feel like a visiting dignitary. So please get in touch if there’s a meaningful opportunity for me to come and find out more about you and your service.

I look forward to working with you all.

Nichola Sanderson stood in meeting room wearing uniform.