I worked in the NHS for some time as a nurse, leaving in 2000 to work in the voluntary sector, vowing not to come back into the NHS until I could make some real change: for people to be treated as people, and not just physiological systems or functions. My philosophy has always been one of supporting people to do things for themselves, be it personally or professionally, for health, development and progression.
Supporting independent advocacy and involvement initiatives for people with mental health problems and learning disabilities, their carers and families, I loved working in the voluntary sector. Providing quality grassroots and genuinely person-centred/ directed services, it really is all about people. Having lived experience as a service user and carer, it really is less about ‘us and them’ and more about ‘us’.
I came back into the NHS by default: working part-time for NHS Direct initially as a way of maintaining my nursing registration and clinical practice, I found it to be a diverse and forward-thinking environment, with many challenges for working across primary/ secondary care and community-based services for people to have the right care or support at the right time from the right person. I went on to become the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Lead for the East Midlands region, bringing communities together and helping them to speak with each other. I worked also on national initiatives including branding, marketing, communication, online engagement and digital health, for which we won various awards.
So now I was back in the NHS and making a difference. The law had changed, giving patients and carers much more say in what happens to them, with a legal requirement for them to be involved in their care, service and organisation. Now, not only did we have to ask people what they thought about things, but we had to do something with that information. Radical!
In 2008 I started working for community health services as Patient, Carer and Public Engagement Manager. Nottinghamshire Community Health (now, along with Bassetlaw, known as Health Partnerships) became part of the Trust in 2011, at which time I became part of the Involvement Team.
My job title doesn’t really mean that much to people: basically, I listen to what people think about the service, then work with staff teams and communities to share good practice or make changes to improve the quality of service and patient/ carer experience. The biggest cultural shift is for people to be confident enough to share their experience and staff to be confident enough to listen and respond to it.
I knew that I wanted to see what works in the voluntary and community sector work in the NHS: people working together, respected for their skills and experience, with the freedom to have their say, be creative and responsive without so much bureaucracy that innovation is stifled. I always felt I was swimming against the tide in the NHS, only now do I feel that with truly integrated care and working together the tide has turned and real change can become a reality. Bring it on!
On a personal note, I love reading, crafting, travelling, dogs and biking, and can often be seen doing all at once…