60 seconds with…
johann van zyl

Johann van Zyl is Chief Executive Officer at Specialist Neurological Care Provider PJ Care.

Tell us about your career and how you came to be working at PJ Care?

I was born and brought up in South Africa and started in business there in the early 1980s when the Apartheid system of racial segregation was still in place. My company began by helping black taxi drivers in South Africa secure loans to pay for their vehicles, and later became successful helping black people start their own businesses. The mid-1990s saw the end of Apartheid and the business evolved so that we became consultants to a number of big car manufacturers who were keen to invest in South Africa.

In 2007, I went to work as Chief Executive Officer for a gold mining company. It meant travelling around a huge area of Africa, seeing wonderful, wild and beautiful places like Ethiopia, Sudan and Namibia, and living in Tanzania. I had a fantastic time.

After five years, I decided I was getting too old for all the travelling. I met Jan Flawn, who is Chair and Founder of PJ Care, just by chance. She happened to be looking for a Chief Executive to help her develop the business. She offered me the job in August 2012 and I jumped at the chance.

What attracted you to the organisation?

I was incredibly impressed with Jan. She is so passionate about good quality care and she has a real vision for how things should be. She saw inappropriate care for people with neurological conditions when she worked as a nurse and has created a company which provides the kind of care, treatment and rehabilitation people deserve.

What are your plans for PJ Care?

In the short-term, we have plans to renovate and expand our Bluebirds and Mallard House Care Centres in Milton Keynes. In the longer term we will open another large centre – similar in scale to Eagle Wood.

More generally, we will be looking to cement PJ Care’s position as the industry leader in neurological care and rehabilitation.

How do you see the business evolving in the coming years?

Like all specialist providers to the NHS, we are waiting for the new commissioning landscape to settle.

We will need to emphasise to NHS England’s teams of specialist commissioners that we need to work in partnership to give people the highest quality care.

In the meantime, we will continue to push the message that specialised longer-term neurological care and treatment is, as the evidence shows, the way forward, clinically and in terms of cost. There is every reason to believe that NHS England’s five-year strategy for specialised commissioning, due to be published in July, will reflect this.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

My father was my mentor, and he said to me, ‘Never forget, you spin the flywheel. It’s all on you.’ What he meant by this was that leaders must always remember an entire team relies on them. We have a duty to always be on top of our game.

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