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Florence Nightingale Foundation Travel Scholarship, 2017

31st January 2017

A blog by Dr Robert Nettleton, Education Advisor, Institute of Health Visiting, on being awarded the Florence Nightingale Foundation Travel Scholarship 2017.

I’m delighted to have been awarded a Travel Scholarship by the Florence Nightingale Foundation. It will be to undertake a professional visit to South Africa during 2017. The title of my project will be Clinical leadership for the 1001 critical days across boundaries in South Africa.”

Dr Robert Nettleton, iHV AGM, Brunei Gallery, London. Picture by:

My Aim is to enhance the expertise of health visitors (recently bolstered by the Health Visiting Implementation Plan) with enterprise and resilience to effect their clinical leadership in children’s public health. In contrast to the UK, South Africa’s infrastructure and levels of public funding are less well resourced. Nevertheless, with major challenges of intergenerational violence and inequality, there are inspiring examples of leadership and enterprise at intersections of public bodies, NGOs, professionals and lay workers, business and communities.  This plurality of services within a context of severe resource constraint characterises our UK present and future, more than our past. So, our past assumptions about state funding and provision no longer hold. However, South Africa is an example of a middle income country where no such assumptions apply, but it provides examples of expert practice within resource constraint requiring enterprising and resilient leadership across sectoral and professional boundaries. My proposition is that the UK will have much to learn from connecting with South Africa, especially from:

  • Focusing on the first 1000 days from conception to age 2
  • Focusing on the infant as point of entry to a community: (the small in the large and the large in the small)
  • Inspirational and enterprising leadership

The first 1000(+1) days (WAVE, 2015) strategies are recognised in the UK and internationally as a shared focus for universal primary prevention with greatest impact and return on investment.

I have already established excellent contacts in South Africa. The rationale for choices of places / organisations to be visited is primarily to be exposed to enterprising and resilient leadership at strategic, community and clinical practice levels. Each of the organisations / networks are gateways to more finely grained opportunities for direct participation with practitioners and services working with families of young children in community-based health and Early Childhood Development (ECD).

A common thread is ‘championing the champions’ or leaders as lay workers through to leaders of NGOs and public services. DG Murray Trust, in particular, is highly innovative in shaping policy and practice, and especially evaluation of leadership development. It challenges a narrative of deprivation and disadvantage with narratives of resourcefulness while also challenging power imbalances. They are ‘committed to working with other funders, government, business, trade unions and civil society where we share a common goal’. This reflects the future of our UK context (rather than its past in the post-war consensus of universal public services) and hence the challenges for which health visitors (and others) need to be equipped. Moreover, the strategic entry point for change is investment in the first 1000 days of life.

While the award is a personal award, as a Fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting I will be seeking to not only to feedback and disseminate learning from the trip for the benefit of health visitors and others who share a commitment to early childhood health and development, but I also hope to involve my iHV colleagues to have a stake in the trip.  I will be interested to hear:

  • What would YOU like to learn from South Africa?
  • Do you have any contacts you would like to suggest (especially in the wider Cape Town area)?
  • Would you like to track the development of the project as it takes shape?

Please contact me with your thoughts on [email protected]


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