Reflections on the last decade
Although I have a degree in politics from York University, I started my career as a porter and healthcare assistant before becoming a regional trainee in the West Midlands.
I’ve also held roles as Personnel Manager and General Manager at the Royal United Hospital, Bath, and Deputy Director of Personnel at Brighton Health Care. My first director post was a joint role for Royal West Sussex NHS Trust and Western Sussex PCT and I subsequently became Director of Human Resources and Organisational Development at East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust.
Looking at the last decade, I joined the NHS Employers Policy Board in 2006 and was appointed Vice Chair in June 2008. Prior to joining NHS Employers as Chief Executive in 2014, I was Director of Workforce and Strategy at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust.
I’ve been hugely fortunate to work with committed colleagues from social care during my time in Nottinghamshire, where we worked closely together on the LETC (Nottinghamshire Local Education and Training Council) and, more recently, with NHS Employers, involved in forming the Cavendish Coalition, which aims to address issues arising from Brexit that can affect the workforce across social care and health.
These social care colleagues have been generous with their time and enormously patient as this NHS-lifer has learnt to develop a broader perspective on the care workforce.
Projections for the next decade
There is, I think, a shared set of challenges across social care and health.
The nation needs to find a way of ensuring proper investment in the services we provide our communities, and some sort of independent office of budget responsibility for the sector, that identifies what level of funding is required, seems essential.
While the economic challenge is a shared one, its severity is much more profound for social care employers and commissioners and, of course, those that they care for, as resources are increasingly overstretched and social care needs continue to grow.
Brexit is also an enormous challenge and through the Cavendish Coalition, we are committed to helping the Government develop strategies and policies that support the recruitment of talented people from within the UK to work in our organisations, but also, when necessary, from beyond our borders.
Like many in the public sector, I am ever-more reliant on collaboration with others to achieve the goals of, in my case, my members.
Acceptance of the need to learn from and work with others is ever-more important, and sharing best practice is especially important in an age of budgetary restraint and political uncertainty.
I have been enormously lucky in my career in the people I have worked for and with: Mike, Margot, Alex, Tim, Robert, Nick and Peter have all been enormously important to my development, challenging and encouraging me to be a better colleague and leader.
The best lesson I’ve learnt is the importance of maintaining calm.
I remember being struck, in my first observation of surgery back in 1993 in Stoke, by the sense of calm that the surgical team maintained throughout a challenging day, and I’ve always respected that quality in the leaders I’ve worked with.
Being calm leads to better decisions and actually assists urgency: it’s also better for the team and the soul.
I’m sure my own sense of calm is a work in progress, though.
Be clear about what you stand for and what motivates you: what you value from work and life. Make your career choices against those values. Trust the inner voice that tells you that something doesn’t feel right.