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Royal College of Nursing Representing nurses and nursing, promoting excellence in practice, shaping health policies

Meet the Team

Vicki Leah - Forum Chair

Consultant Nurse, University College Hospitals London

Vicki Leah is Consultant Nurse for Older People and Dementia Lead at UCHL.  She leads on developments to improve the experience of older people attending the hospital and leads a team of older peoples clinical nurse specialists. Her clinical practice includes working with the multidisciplinary team providing comprehensive geriatric assessment for frail patients with complex needs.

Vicki has a clinical background in cardiology and has worked as a ward sister, resuscitation officer, lead nurse and consultant nurse for acute medicine, in this role she was the named consultant for a nurse led acute medical ward. She is also very experienced in delivering education on a number of topics to diverse audiences. Her interests include dementia and delirium, education and person-centred care.

Sarah Winfield-Davies

Safeguarding Nurse/Team Lead, North Devon Care Homes Team


Sandra Shields

Alzheimer Scotland, Dementia Nurse Consultant


Michelle Parker

Lecturer in adult nursing

Michelle was appointed lecturer in adult nursing specialising in the care of older people and people with dementia in February 2016.

Michelle qualified as a nurse in 1997 gaining at Bachelor of Nursing (Hons) at The University of Liverpool. Michelle worked as a staff nurse in acute care at Preston Royal Infirmary and then in acute care of older people at Queen Mary’s Hospital Sidcup as both a staff nurse and a ward sister. She completed an MSc in Gerontology at Kings College in 2001. In 2004 Michelle took up the post of practice development nurse for older people at Newham University Hospital in East London, developing educational programmes in dementia and rehabilitation. In 2010 Michelle was appointed Consultant Nurse for Older People at Newham University Hospital and later Barts Health NHS Trust. In this post she led the Older People’s Liaison Service at Newham University Hospital and worked with Newham Memory services specialising in the assessment and diagnosis of dementia in the acute hospital setting and the management of swallowing and eating problems in advanced dementia. 

Michelle  currently undertaking her PhD looking at the timeliness of a dementia diagnosis during acute hospital admission. 

Sandra Blades

Staff Nurse, Brierton Lodge care home

Sandra graduated from Newcastle University in 1983 with an Honours degree in Chemistry. 

Sandra’s first career was as a Police Officer working for Cleveland Police in both uniform and CID roles from 1983 until 1995. She qualified to the rank of Sergeant in 1985 and worked on many high-profile cases in the late 1980s and early 1990s. 

In 1998 Sandra began her new career in the care sector and worked as a nursing home administrator where her interest in promoting person-centred care began to emerge. Sandra was instrumental in establishing a residents’ and relatives’ committee in the home to enhance communication channels and maintain dialogue.  In 2007 Sandra began the journey in her nursing career, completing a part-time training course and graduating from Teesside University with an Advance Diploma in Adult Nursing. Since qualifying in 2007, Sandra has worked as a staff nurse at Brierton Lodge care home in Hartlepool; formerly a BUPA care home now owned by HC-One. 

She continued with her professional development through part-time studies and has now achieved a Degree in Nursing (1st class) in 2011 and more recently, a Master’s Degree in Health and Social Care (End of Life Pathway) (Merit) in 2016.  

Sandra worked with the Gold Standards Team in end of life care for care homes (GSF) and established herself as the Gold Standards Framework Coordinator for Brierton Lodge. The GSF for care homes training programme was recommended as good practice in the End of Life Strategy (2008). Sandra expanded her knowledge and experience in palliative care through working as a Rapid Response Nurse (bank) for Marie Curie in County Durham and an education facilitator (bank) in South Tyneside. 

In 2015 Sandra applied for and received a Florence Nightingale Foundation travel scholarship to visit Australia and examine end of life projects and good practice in Australia’s aged care facilities. She spent time in aged care facilities and spoke to residents, practitioners and academics in the field during her visit. Following the research, Sandra reported on her findings and has had her report published, circulated within Bupa locally and nationally and she has engaged with local MPs who have promoted her findings with the Department of Health.  Sandra was given a Bupa Clinical Excellence Award for Compassionate Care in 2016 and intends to take her work forward to examine how residents and their carers / families can be more effectively supported from the point of admission into a care home up to and including end of life. She is also a keen advocate in the promotion of the role of the care home nurse within the wider NHS multi-disciplinary team setting.

Jo James

Lead Nurse for Dementia

Jo is currently working as Lead Nurse for Dementia at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. She qualified as a registered general nurse in 1988 and completed an MSc in Medical Anthropology in 1997. She recently graduated as a King’s Older People’s Nursing Fellow. Jo specialised initially in Emergency Care and service redesign. Since 2008, she has specialised in the care of older people and people with dementia. She has been involved in local and national initiatives to improve care of patients with dementia in hospital including developing training materials, an innovative nutrition and hydration project and championing partnership working with people with dementia and carers.  

Jo’s particular areas of interest are hearing the voice of people with dementia, pain assessment in dementia, nutrition and hydration in dementia and meaningful activity in acute settings. Jo has several publications on refugee care and care of survivors of torture as well as on care of people with dementia in the hospital setting. Alongside her team at Imperial, their book on Excellent Dementia Care in Hospitals will be published in March 2017 as part of the University of  Bradford Dementia Good Practice Guides.    

Gary Mitchell

Lecturer (Education), School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen's University Belfast

Gary is a lecturer at Queen's University Belfast. He is a registered nurse with significant clinical & academic experience in nursing education, care homes, dementia care, frailty, delirium, palliative care, oncology, evidence-based care & qualitative research methods.  Gary has published a book, written over 40 peer-reviewed articles in healthcare journals & presented at a range of international conferences. Gary is also a non-executive director of Age NI, a dementia-friendly community champion for the Alzheimer's Society & was named as Nurse of the Year by the British Journal of Nursing in 2016.  


Professional Lead: Dawne Garrett

Follow the forum on Twitter: @RCNOPF

Page last updated - 03/08/2019