spotlight on - shap membership

gail copeland, health improvement officer

How long have you been in post?
11 years in this post and I have been working with the NHS for 42 years.
Tell me about your role and day to day duties and responsibilities.
My role is difficult to quantify completely because it changes on a day to day basis, in respect of the fact that you never know what might occur that day. I could be out in the morning on a home visit followed by a Dementia Forum meeting. Attending meetings might lead to delivering training around dementia, mental health or sexual health. I offer support and supervision to the Community Link Workers and assist Elaine, as Public Health Practitioner in her role. I am part of the Annan One Team and I have been working to develop mental health pathways with partners. I am the vice-chair of the dementia forum. I represent the Safe and Healthy Action Partnership (SHAP) on the Handyvan board. I am a registered trainer for Health Improvement Scotland and I am able to deliver a variety of different type of training. A key topic would be Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid. As a trained nurse, I am on the NMC register and we are able to take student nurses on their seven week placement in years 1 and 2. The students love it when they are here. It is area which they find very different and it encourages them to think about health in a much wider sense. It focuses on the preventative agenda, keeping people well. My role involves being flexible and willing to think outside the box. Every day is different.
What motivates you most about your job?
The diversity of the job...I love it! It inspires me to respond to the variety of challenges that often present themselves.
What has given you most satisfaction at work recently?
Something that we have been talking about for the past two years has now become a reality...the Herbert Protocol. This provides a way for relatives to compile a detailed description and information about their loved one which can be utilised by different agencies in the event that somebody goes missing, for example someone with dementia.
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
Working with people who do not work in partnership or who do not think that health is anything to do with them.
What have you done previously (in terms of jobs and skills) which supports you in your current work?
I started as a cadet nurse at 16 years old. I then moved on to do my enrolled nurse training at 17.5 years. I worked in a variety of different places during my training. On completion, I got a job at the Crichton. I moved after 2 years to work at Nithbank where I stayed for quite a number of years. (around 15) At that time they were opening a new service called the “Can Do Centre” which was for young people with physical disabilities where I was Assistant Manager. During which time, I did my conversion course to become a staff nurse. I learned about what was important to people. What really matters to them can be very different to what professionals think it is. During that time, I developed an interest in continence services and as a new Continence Advisor was being appointed, I was able to work alongside her in partnership to further develop that interest of mine and to further develop the service. Together we set up healthy bladder and bowel clinics in Dumfries and Sanquhar. I was fortunate in 2002 to win the Nursing Times National Award for these clinics under the heading of the essence of care and dignity. I left there in 2003 and went to work in the Cumberland Infirmary as a Head Injury Nurse Specialist. I left there in 2004 and went to work with Community Integrated Care (CIC) as a Team Leader/Project Manager moving people into their own homes and putting together a team to support them. The trigger for the next chapter is that I was about to become a granny. When I saw this post, I thought that is the job for me because I can bring my skills and experience to this role.
How long have you been involved with SHAP?
For eleven years.
What do you consider to be the benefits of being a member of SHAP?
The importance of working in partnership and the opportunity for networking and project planning where finance is a barrier. We also share skills.
How have you been involved in SHAP?
Through attending the meetings and being chair of the Substance, Sexual Health and Risk Taking Behaviour Group. This group is currently organising the Big World event for S4 pupils across Annandale and Eskdale.
Do you have any suggestions for ways in which SHAP can work differently?
To make more use of social media and to appeal to a wider audience.
What are your hobbies and interests outside work?
I love reading books. I enjoy my home and spending time in it. Family are very important to me. Being involved in watching my grandson grow up is an absolute joy.

For more information please contact Gail on
01461 207728 or email