Meet the Team
General Practice Nurse
Vanessa is an early career adult branch nurse with first employment directly into general practice. She is a proactive RCN member since 2018, including Student Committee alumni (2020-2021) Her other roles include: GPNSNN ambassador, BAME GPN Champion and has recently taken up post as Chair for her local RCN Branch, Forum Chairs Committee and Forum Governance Group and the NHS Shared Decision-Making Council for Primary Care.
Vanessa is passionate about population health equity, breaking the many myths of general practice and raising awareness of the value of the nursing profession, especially the new generation of students. She participates in political summits and has been involved in pay campaign events to name a few of her activities.
Kathryn Smyth, QN
Since qualifying as a registered nurse, Kathryn has worked in a variety of posts across both primary and secondary care. Kathryn's professional interests lie in the community setting, particularly general practice where she worked as a practice nurse for many years. After completing her specialist practitioner General Practice Nurse postgraduate diploma in 2007, she became a practice teacher and avid promoter of educational opportunities within practice nursing, focusing her master's dissertation on the subject area.
Kathryn taught as an ad hoc lecturer on the general practice nurse foundation course before taking up a full-time teaching post at the University of Central Lancashire in 2016. Kathryn currently works as an Academy Teacher at Accelerate, a social enterprise providing specialist wound and lymphoedema care.
Kathryn joined the RCN as a student nurse and became a member of the GPN forum committee in January 2017. She is a Queen's Nurse and an active member of her local GPN forum. Kathryn has contributed to a chapter in the 3rd edition of The Textbook of Non-Medical Prescribing (Nuttall & Rutt-Howard, 2020) and has been published in several nursing journals. She is a member of the Association of General Practice Nurse Educators and a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
La Toya De Freita
General Practice Nurse
La Toya qualified as a nurse in 2000 in Guyana, South America. She then migrated to the UK in 2003 and worked in Neuroscience and Critical Care. La Toya undertook a 1 year transition to general practice in 2017 via LSBU by completing a Specialist Practitioner GPN degree. As a Practice Nurse she was able to fulfil her passion for health promotion and health inequity.
La Toya works as a GPN 3 days week. She is currently working a part time role with the severe asthma team tackling health inequality of asthma with primary care. La Toya is very passionate about health promotion, providing best care for the population, reaching those that do not engage and raising the profile of primary care as GPNs are the gate keepers and collaborate between secondary and primary care.
Sarah Hall, QN
General Practice Nurse Strategic Lead
Sarah has had a long and varied career within a broad range of specialities such as Care of the Elderly, Haematology, Neonatal and Adult Intensive Care, undertaken in hospitals in London, Kent, Australia and Devon. She also has 22 years’ experience of working in primary care as a General Practice Nurse.
Sarah has been an RCN Branch vice-chair, seconded to work on several NHSE projects relating to general practice nursing, as well as contributing to journal articles and reviews of national standards. Sarah leads an active GPN Leads Virtual Network across Devon and is an active member of the SW GPN Leads Group.
Sarah’s current role is General Practice Nurse Strategic Lead, Devon Integrated Care System (ICS). This role is embedded within the Integrated Care Board (ICB) and brings responsibility for ensuring the delivery of the Devon General Practice Nurse Strategy, as well as ensuring that there is visible nurse leadership and senior support for Practice Nursing and its ongoing development as a profession across Devon ICS.
Sarah is a Queens Nurse and has been a member of the RCN GPN Steering Committee member of the Royal College of Nursing GPN Forum since 2018.
Ellen Nicholson, QN
National Safety and Learning Lead | General Practice
Ellen has been a registered nurse for a number of years and over that time have worked across primary, secondary and community care in a variety of roles ranging clinically from general practice nursing, advanced nurse practitioner, clinical nurse specialist, to educational roles as university course director and lecturer and training hub manager into nurse management. In 2023/4 she will be taking a secondment from her role as national safety and learning lead for general practice at NHS Resolution, looking at the themes and trends of claims data within general practice to work with the Royal Surrey NHS Trust and Surrey Heartlands Integrated Care System leading on the Integrated System discharge pathways.
Ellen holds a BSc (Hons) Nurse Practitioner and an MA Advanced Practice and Independent prescribing qualification from Bournemouth University, as well as a BSc (Hons) from the Open University focusing on Political Science. She is also a local authority Borough Councillor and an NHS Trust Governor and excitingly am writing/editing a book with Elsevier in 2023.
Ellen's vision for the forum is that it continues to highlight nationally the important and integral role of general practice nursing to the health and wellbeing of our local communities and that it is able to articulate your concerns and successes when discussing strategy, policy and development to our stakeholders and the wider NHS. Ellen would also like to build a forum link nurse group to provide expert representatives across general practice settings to support the forum and drive the general practice nurse narrative forwards.
Twitter Handle @EllzSummary
Joyce Pickering, QN
RGN, QN, NMP, PGDip Clinical Education
Joyce has worked in general practice for 20 years. She is currently a Nurse Partner in a busy town practice, the Devon Local Medical Committee Nurse Executive which provides personal and professional support for general practice nurses, and the GPN Lead for the Devon Training Hub. This is an exciting time for practice nursing with new opportunities for education and development evolving to meet the current challenges in primary care and enable the delivery of high-quality patient care from appropriately skilled general practice nurses.
Long Term Condition management is Joyce's main clinical focus. Her practice hosts student nurses from both Plymouth University and Exeter Universities. This has been extremely rewarding and they hope it will encourage student nurses to consider general practice nursing as a first career choice. She is also keen to support the role of Nursing Associates in general practice. Joyce recently completed a Masters Degree in clinical education and is a guest lecturer at Exeter University.
These different roles enable Joyce to have a comprehensive overview of life in General Practice and the challenges and rewards it brings. Joyce will be working hard with the RCN GPN Forum to support the role of general practice nurses, clinically and professionally across the UK.
Clinical Effectiveness Lead and Lead for Advanced Practice
Penny qualified as a nurse in 2001 and started her career in Medical Assessment and later Accident and Emergency at a busy district hospital. She then spent time working at a teaching hospital in Sydney, Australia before returning to the UK and securing a role as a District Nurse. Following a PCT restructuring, she undertook a six-month Practice Nurse Apprenticeship and moved into general practice where she worked for 18 years leading and managing the nursing team across two sites in a large town centre practice in Suffolk. In addition, she was on the committee of the local Primary Care Nurse Forum and was nurse representative for her local PCN where she ensured that the voice of the nursing team was fairly represented and highlighted issues that may affect future service delivery.
Currently Penny is working for a not-for-profit organisation owned by 57 G.P Practices as Clinical Effectiveness Lead and Lead for Advanced Practice. She stills works clinically within General Practice one day a week.
UK Head of Nursing Education
UK Professional Lead for Primary Care
I am a registered nurse and independent nurse prescriber with over 30 years’ experience working across the NHS, primary care, the independent sector and academia. My previous roles include General Practice Nurse; Professional Development Lead at an NHS Trust for Mental Health, Learning Disability and Community; Senior Lecturer; Primary Care Lead Nurse; Clinical lead/ ANP and Quality Lead Nurse. I have a keen interest in primary care, education, leadership, medicines management and non-medical prescribing and is passionate about general practice nursing, advanced practice, physical and mental health, preceptorship and portfolio careers.
I also currently work as a Regional Quality Lead Nurse and ANP in the Midlands, working with general practice and urgent care centres, all with a variety of population need. I support GPNs, HCAs, ANPs and GPs within primary and urgent care providing clinical leadership, governance and supervision.
Although I have various local, regional and national roles I have always maintained a foot in practice working initially as one of the first practice nurses and now as a regional leader and ANP.
I have seen primary care transform its ways of working during one of the most challenging times in healthcare, the Covid-19 pandemic. I am passionate about safe practice, improving terms and conditions for nurses in primary care and the role of primary care in the wider workforce.
I hope to support the continuing development of new ways of working in primary care and I am keen to work with the GPN forum on projects, consultations and fringe events that support general practice and ensure quality service provision.
If you would like to share any concerns, raise issues and share best practice and new ideas please contact me: Heather Randle (Heather.Randle@rcn.org.uk)