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Happy New Year! I hope 2016 is a happy and prosperous year for you! 

Vicki Cameron, Founder and CEO of StEPS Podiatry

Last year was a really busy year for me, both professionally and personally, and so I wanted to start the year off by telling you about all the developments at StEPS Podiatry, and what you can expect from us this year.

Firstly, I would like to say a most sincere thanks to you all for your support. Putting the business aside for a moment, last year was a difficult one for the twins and I, and I really could not have got through it without the kind words that I received on so many occasions from many of you. Alys and Jessica will be 4 years old in May, and are wonderful, happy wee girls. They often visit the clinic in Troon, and with a wee cloth in their hands they are expected to muck in like everyone else! I hope that 2016 is going to be a positive year for my girls and I, and we have some exciting plans ahead.

Many of you will know that I have had ambitions for many years to open a Podiatry clinic in the Middle East. I was invited to attend a Trade Mission with Scottish Enterprise in 2013, and from that time I have had a few trips to Doha and Dubai, to follow up on the opportunities there. After about seven years of market research and planning, we are now at the stage where we are ready to take our proposition to the Middle East, and it looks like this will be the year! Many people ask me, why the Middle East? I first visited Muscat in Oman in 2007. I fell in love with the Arabic culture, and just loved the people and the way of life. A few years later I visited Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Fujairah, and started to see the opportunities for the business. Places like Dubai are still very young, only about 50 years old, and so they are playing catch up with the rest of the world. With their strong tourism and oil and gas industries, there is a lot of wealth in this part of the world, and the countries leaders are keen to attract quality professionals to deliver cutting edge services to the people living there. There are very few podiatrists working in the Middle East, with the profession being relatively unknown. However, as the incidence of Diabetes reaches crisis point, it is a professional service that is now becoming more in demand. I see opportunities there to not only grow the business, but to influence clinical practice in way that will help patients as well as develop podiatry as a whole. That is what drives me; to make a difference and to influence policy and practice. 

Now that we have identified a large healthcare group to partner with us, we are putting things in place to start trading in Middle East by 1st September 2016. This partnership involves investment, and as such it is important for me to be personally involved in developing this service. Because of this, it is with great excitement that the twins and I are planning to move to the Middle East for up to 12 months. This has not been an easy decision to make, however I feel in my heart and in my gut, that it is the right thing for my family, and for the business. The team that I will be leaving in Scotland to run things are fantastic, and I feel that if I can’t do this with the team that I have now, I never will.  Most of you will know that I have a very close and special relationship with my own mum, and so thankfully she has agreed to come with us! Having survived the terrible pain and hurt that I have experience this past year, I feel as if I have come out the other end, and that I am now more determined than ever! I want to give my girls opportunities in life, and I want them to grow up seeing that if you have dreams you can achieve them, as long as you work hard! All of our current clinics and services here in Scotland will continue as normal, and the team are working hard to put things in place to ensure consistency of services while I am away.

Well, you would think after hearing all of those plans for development that would be enough for us! No! We still have aspirations to improve our services here and we are definitely not going to stand still! I’m sure that I can speak for all of the team when I say that we genuinely love what we do, and we have so many ideas about how we can keep improving.  As a team we want to keep learning and developing professionally, always aspiring to become the best that we can be. All of the team are going to be working on specific projects this year, and I am happy to share these with you.

Ross Armour started with me in November 2011 when I was pregnant with the twins. He has been so loyal to me, and it has been a real privilege to see him grow and develop into such a proficient Podiatrist. Ross has developed an interest in a few different areas of clinical practice. Ross leads our nail surgery service, and also delivers our podopaediatrics service (children’s feet). Ross sits on the Podopaediatrics interest group and has gained CPD qualifications in this area. Last year Ross presented a research paper on behalf of the team in Stellenbosch, at the South African Podiatry Conference. He also did the corticosteroid injection course, and following his practical exam, he will be able to offer this specialised treatment. Ross will probably be embarking on his biggest challenge yet this year, when he starts the non-medical independent prescribing course at UWS. This will enable Ross to be able to prescribe many medications for our patients, and eliminate the need for them to visit their GP. We really hope that this will make things even easier for our patients, and open up the doors for us to offer more specialised services. The competition to get on this course is fierce, and with very few Podiatrists gaining entry, this is a huge accolade for Ross and StEPS Podiatry.

Allison Reid joined the team in February 2015, and I can honestly say that I do not know how we ever managed without her! Allison joined us after having worked in the NHS for several years and brought a lot of experience and expertise. She is currently completing her dissertation for her Master’s Degree in Diabetes and Tissue Viability.  Allison was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes when she was a toddler, and this has largely influenced her decision to not only become a Podiatrist, but to specialise in the field of Diabetes.  This personal knowledge and unique understanding gives a distinctive quality of service to our patients with diabetes. With her research experience, Allison is now collaborating with UWS to investigate the management of diabetic foot disease in people with dementia. This has never been looked at before, and so we are excited about the new services that we will be able to offer based on these findings. We look forward to sharing these updates with you throughout the year. Allison has also attended many wound conferences this past year, as well as a biomechanics course.

Laura Devlin has recently joined the team. Laura is a local girl, but has worked in the NHS in England, in Dubai, and in Australia. Laura is highly skilled in the area of biomechanics, and having worked in Dubai and Australia she has gained a lot of experience in prescribing foot orthoses (special insoles) and treating musculoskeletal problems. As I spend more time running the business, Laura will be helping me with all of my sports injuries work. I am hoping that she will get involved with some of the work that we do at Strathclyde University and she is currently applying to do her Master’s degree in Biomechanics. Laura is a very sporty girl herself, and I think this is what makes her so good at her job; she really appreciates how important healthy feet are for doing sport and exercise and understands that people not only want to prevent injury, but to recover as quickly as possible should an injury occur. Laura has also brought to the team several new techniques which she learned in Dubai and Australia. We are looking forward to introducing them into our clinics throughout 2016.

Emma Hamilton is our HR and Administrative lead, and is currently working towards her Master’s degree in HR.  Emma is normally the first point of contact for people when they are accessing our services, and I don’t think we could get any one better! Emma plays a very important role for us in so efficiently organising our diaries, sending out invoices and liaising with the care homes.  With her skills in HR she is also a great support to me in making sure that as we grow the business, the foundations are strong and that we are doing everything to attract the best Podiatrists that we can, and offer our patients a safe environment to come in to. With the business now being a considerable size, Emma will be working hard this year to develop an operations manual for us, so that all aspects of our patients journey is well mapped out, and that it is a seamless pathway of care.

As many of you will know, we have developed a highly specialised service for vulnerable people with dementia. This has largely been centred on people in care homes. This year we will aim to further expand this for people who are still living at home. We feel that a specialised Podiatry service for vulnerable people who are still at home can contribute to helping people to live as independently as possible. Due to the work that we have done for people with dementia, I was invited to become an affiliate of the UWS Alzheimer Centre last year. This was the huge achievement for me, and it was great for the hard work of the team to be recognised. A lot of thought and research was put into developing a service that meets the needs of vulnerable people with dementia, and their families and carers.

I have continued to work with the Scottish Football Association this year, and was fortunate enough to also work with the Qatar national team when I was in Doha last year. Our partnership with Strathclyde University will continue this year, and we will be carrying out further work into the use of computerised 3D gait analysis for the prevention of sports injuries. 

We continue to deliver our services from the Toll Pharmacy every Thursday and Friday. This is a great partnership, and we really enjoy being in the Toll. For any patients who require nail surgery or a biomechanical assessment, we advise they come to Troon, as we have more room there, and more stock and supplies. Our Troon clinic continues to grow. We are now open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm, with a late night on a Thursday. We renovated the clinics this year, and feedback has been great! I have asked the team not to make me spend any more money for a whileJ!  We still have our two electric cars on the road for our house visits, and Allison drives a petrol car for further away journeys. We had a TV advert on STV last year which was great, and helped us to secure a few new care homes in the Glasgow area.

StEPS Podiatry now cares for more than 4,000 patients. We really want to carry on offering a personalised service that is patient centred, but as we become larger this brings challenges! I would urge you to please let us know about any concerns that you have, or suggestions about how we can improve things. We are more than happy to hear your thoughts, and we want to know how we can make your experience with us even more enjoyable.

I would like to finish off by thanking you all once again. The team and I often comment that we feel that many of our days are spent catching up with friends! We are lucky to be part of a community that supports local businesses, and we sincerely hope that we are here for many more years to come.

The twins are the other half of my heart, and everything that I do is for them. However, I do have another baby, and that is StEPS Podiatry. This business is something that I believe in…. I eat it, sleep it and breathe it! Thank you for supporting the team, the business, and me… it has given me a lot of strength during some very bleak days!

Thank you!

From Vicki Cameron