With the NHS 70th Birthday now upon us, I have been reflecting back on my career and how privileged I’ve been to spend over 25 years working for such a well-loved institution and with such amazing people.
I joined the NHS as part of their national graduate management training scheme. While I believe I would have ended up working within health and care services regardless; had circumstances been different, I could have ended up following a very different career path.
I originally undertook a degree in pharmacology at Leeds University. I probably saw myself working in some sort of clinical or scientific role in the future.
However, I met my husband at university who was just recovering from cancer and chemotherapy treatment. Despite being told he couldn’t have children as a result of the treatment, we found out he could in the final year of my degree!!
So, instead of sitting final exams, I had our daughter. I decided that, given this change in my life, ‘in for a penny in for a pound’ and had my son a year or so later. Due to this, my life course changed somewhat and any personal career was put on hold for a while.
While my children were growing up, I pondered on what I wanted to do with my career. When they started school, I went back to university and undertook a degree in business as a mature student.
When it came to thinking about jobs after I had finished my degree, I decided I wanted to combine my interest in science and business and to work for an employer that really valued difference and diversity. As a mature student with two young children, I obviously didn’t fit the typical graduate mould, so this was really important.
When I saw the NHS graduate trainee scheme it was a complete fit and I have not looked back. I’ve had such a good time over the last 25 years – I definitely made the best career choice.
I have been very lucky to end up doing a job that I love and where I can make a difference, in an organisation whose values so closely match my own.
During my first interview to get on the graduate training scheme, I was asked about my values. I really struggled to describe what they were, even though I knew instinctively the NHS reflected what I felt in my heart.
It’s only as I have worked in the NHS over the years that I have really been able to articulate these. They very much align to those I believe most of us have within our own Trust – care, compassion, spirit and determination, fairness, diversity and equality.
The latter really stands out to me when it comes to the NHS. Its inception made sure that everyone could receive high quality healthcare, regardless of their income or status.
The values are what attracted me to the NHS and have kept me working in the NHS.
Caring for our NHS
It struck me recently that the NHS really is getting older; you could say it’s reaching pensioner status, to coin a phrase. However, it’s only a pensioner if it has a limited lifetime and I don’t think that is the case.
Despite the many challenges, I am confident that the NHS still has many, many years in it and lots of promise. All it needs is continued love and attention, just like a lot of us in our advancing years!
This is why it’s so important that we are having these difficult discussions about safeguarding its future.
The NHS is hugely precious, important and valued and we need to work together to decide how to best look after it. If we work together, including leaders, staff and the public, I firmly believe it will survive long into the future.
I recently had a terrible customer service experience. I spent hours trying to resolve a problem, which involved endless phone calls, being passed around, having to tell my story multiple times and broken promises from the company.
I found myself comparing it to the NHS and realising just how different our ethos is. If a patient has a problem, they can generally speak to the right person fairly easily and quickly. That person will care, listen and do everything they can to make things better.
Most importantly we keep striving to deliver a fantastic service, even when we don’t get it right and things get tricky.
We do get it right most of the time and I’m in the privileged position of seeing many examples of this. We receive a lot of compliments, about 20 to 30 every few weeks, and I try to read every single one. They make me so proud.
The number of compliments always outweighs the number of complaints tenfold. This, along with our consistently high Friends and Family Test score, really drives home that sense of just how often we do get it right.
We know that we do get it wrong sometimes, but it’s a small proportion of the overall good care and support provided and we are absolutely committed to learning and improving.
A big thank you
I’d like to end this birthday blog by thanking every single member of staff for the fantastic job that you do. I know some days you’ll come into work and feel under pressure and undervalued; but you get on with it and give 100% regardless.
You give such a lot of yourself to patients and you don’t do it for the monetary rewards. You do it because you genuinely care about patients and want to do your absolute best for them.
I’m extremely thankful and proud to work in the NHS. There wouldn’t be an NHS without you and you are the reason it will not just survive, but thrive!
I hope you’ll all be able to take some time out of your busy schedule to attend one of the many NHS 70 events that are taking place across the Trust. Full details are provided on the staff intranet.
Finally, here’s to the next 70 years of our wonderful NHS!