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Clinician Connect

Spotlight on: The Nutrition Network

23 Feb 2021 Reading time approximately


The ACI’s Nutrition Network brings together clinicians, allied health professionals, academics, food service providers, industry bodies and consumers to drive innovations in nutritional care across NSW Health. The network’s co-chairs share their insights, taking the approach that "nutrition is everyone’s business".

The Nutrition Network was first formed in 2004 under the Greater Metropolitan Clinical Taskforce with a focus on home enteral nutrition (HEN), followed by the Nutrition in Hospitals Committee in 2009. The Network now has two key focus areas; each with dedicated co-chairs to help guide network activity.

Nutrition Network Co-Chairs

Nutrition in Hospitals
Suzanne Kennewell

Suzanne Kennewell, Co-Chair
Director, Nutrition and Dietetics
Sydney Local Health District

Sheridan Collins

Sheridan Collins, Co-Chair
Senior Dietitian, Nutrition and Dietetics
The Children’s Hospital at Westmead
Sydney Children’s Hospital Network

Home Enteral Nutrition (HEN)
Janet Bell

Janet Bell, Co-Chair
Allied Health Manager and Department Head Nutrition and Dietetics
St George Hospital

Sharon Carey

Sharon Carey, Co-Chair
Manager Nutrition and Dietetics
Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney LHD

What is the primary purpose of the Nutrition Network?

The network provides a forum for collaboration to optimise nutrition care, and the experiences and health outcomes for patients and clients of NSW Health. We also support NSW Health staff with the delivery of this care.

Tell us about your network members and what expertise they bring...

The Nutrition Network has around 270 members; 164 have joined the HEN stream and 202 have joined the Nutrition in Hospitals stream.

All local health districts (LHDs) and specialty health networks (SHNs) are represented in the network, including from regional, rural and metropolitan areas. Our membership is multidisciplinary, and includes dietitians, nurses, speech pathologists, medical officers, dietitian assistants; and representatives from the education and training sectors, food services (including HealthShare NSW), professional organisations; and most importantly, consumers.

We have membership from the Ministry of Health Nutrition and Dietetics Advisory Network and Ministry of Health Speech Pathology Advisory Network.

We also have a relationship with the Nursing and Midwifery Office (NAMO) via the NSW Health Nutrition and Food Strategic Steering Group, of which the Nutrition Network is secretariat.

Our members bring a range of views around challenges and innovations in nutrition care across NSW Health – this allows the network to take a comprehensive view.

What is your role as co-chairs of the network?

We facilitate, advocate and influence improvements in nutrition care for patients, ensuring the voice and views of a range of stakeholders is included.

Our role is to enhance communication and collaboration in a forum to assist in promoting innovation across NSW Health.

How do you foster collaboration with other organisations across health, and other clinical networks?

Our core focus is that nutrition is everyone’s business. We reach out to professional and personal networks, inviting participation and collaboration with a range of different stakeholders to develop system-level improvements.

We work closely with our colleagues at the Ministry of Health and HealthShare NSW, given food service is so closely linked with inpatient nutrition care. We also liaise with eHealth in relation to electronic medical record and CBORD (the diet management system used in NSW Health facilities), and we are developing relationships with the Clinical Excellence Commission.

What are some key achievements of the network?

The network supported the development of a suite of evidence-based, patient resources that support NSW Health to achieve best practice. Two major achievements include the Nutrition Care Policy (PD2017_041), which provides a framework for nutrition care in NSW Health facilities and the NSW HEN Support Contract (C955). This contract provides access to more affordable enteral feeding products (formulas and equipment) for NSW patients requiring home enteral nutrition, compared to if they were required to purchase from retail suppliers, where the cost is more inhibitive.

We also led the development of the NSW Nutrition Standards and Diet Specifications, which have just been converted into a digital format, making them more accessible for users.

All of our initiatives ensure consistent, best practice across NSW, to assist with the provision of a safe, optimal nutrition services.

Engagement and collaboration from a wide representation of NSW Health staff and consumers has contributed to the success of these projects.

How do you encourage stakeholders to join the network?

We have a strong common purpose around nutrition care and patient experience, which has driven engagement and membership growth. We seek opportunities to work towards priorities identified by our members and we welcome diversity in participation.

How do you keep your members actively engaged in network activities?
  • We’ve enhanced opportunities to attend virtual meetings and provided easy access to information via our SharePoint site.
  • We regularly ask members what they need, and we respond to identified priorities.
  • We provide regular updates in areas of interest to our membership.
As network co-chairs, what are your tips for leading an effective clinical network; particularly operating in a virtual environment?
  • Allow space for discussion.
  • Provide a forum where all points of view are encouraged and respected.
  • Use different communication channels to hear from members (e.g. within meetings, via SharePoint, email, through informal networking).
  • Ensure you listen to the needs and priorities of the members to promote ownership.
  • Encourage diverse membership in working groups and seek broad consultation.
  • Seek input from relevant subject matter experts, including those outside the network, where appropriate.
  • Identify and respond to opportunities to put nutrition on the agenda and positively influence outcomes.
  • Look for opportunities and seize the day!
What are your key focus areas for the year ahead?

The HEN stream is focused on developing an organisational model for home enteral nutrition.

The Nutrition in Hospitals stream is reviewing the statewide nutrition standards and other resources to ensure they remain evidence-based, patient-centred, and can be delivered flexibly within varied care models.

More about the ACI’s Nutrition Network

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