Toggle site contrast Toggle Contract

August 2023: Introductions

Are we giving up on summer now? I’m still holding out some hope for nicer weather in September but as the evenings draw in ever so slightly earlier, I can’t help but look forward to bringing back the knitwear and autumn walks.

This month it’s about time I introduce my Board Affiliate colleague, Sarah Lewis.

Guest blogger: Sarah Lewis

Sarah started her role in February, but it was only fair to let her settle in before asking her to be a guest blogger and tell us all about her experience of the first few months as Medical Board Affiliate…

“Hello, my name is Sarah Lewis and I am an ST4 (second year of specialty training) in Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery. I started my surgical career in London, where I completed foundation and core surgical training before moving to Oxford University Hospital for my first year of registrar training. I love the variety in my clinical work as it involves treating acutely unwell orthopaedic patients in A&E and on the wards, reviewing patients in clinic and learning the craft of orthopaedic surgery in theatre.

Alongside clinical work, I am passionate about improving patient care and working conditions and have taken part in several projects throughout my training with this goal. My key areas of interest are increasing efficiency, reducing waiting times and improving rotas and, having only worked at a departmental level, I was then keen to learn how to effect change on a larger scale… but had no idea where to begin! Fortunately, I started BHT in September 2022 and saw the Board Affiliate Role advertised in an email. Despite all the trusts I’d worked in (over 5!) I’d never seen such an incredible opportunity to learn from the leaders and gain insight into the inner workings of hospital management, so I was compelled to apply!

I have now been in the Board Affiliate role since February and have already learnt a huge amount. The first step was having 1-2-1 meetings with the executive and non-executive directors; everyone was very welcoming and supportive. I was given lots of advice but mainly that ‘there is no such thing as a silly question’ and reminded that the board value my opinion and experience of working within the Trust. Despite this reassurance I was pretty nervous (and still am) attending the first board meeting on Microsoft Teams. The meeting was unlike any I’d been to – there wasn’t the chaos of handover meetings with bleeps going off or grillings from consultants. The agenda was adhered to and questions asked in an orderly fashion via the Chair.

There were lots of terms that baffled me, particularly the many mentions of ‘BOB’ and so I arranged a meeting with my mentor to demystify this. In July 2022 the government restructured the NHS into 42 Integrated Care Systems to deliver relevant, joined up health and social care for their area. Each Integrated Care Systems (ICS) has an Integrated Care Body (ICB) that is responsible for managing the healthcare budget and health needs of their population. Our ICB is ‘BOB’, which includes trusts from Berkshire West, Oxford and Buckinghamshire  – hence ‘BOB’. Within the ICS there are also local partnerships with primary care, social care, local authorities, and voluntary groups, to improve communication between services and reduce health inequalities. What this means for is that almost all decisions must be considered within the wider context of BOB to ensure that we are doing the best for the whole community.

Another aspect of the Board Affiliate Role is the Trainee Leadership Board (TLB), and at the March board meeting we had an excellent presentation from this year’s TLB on reducing the Trust’s CO2 emissions. Having joined the Trust after recruitment for this year’s programme I wasn’t aware of it until I researched the Board Affiliate role in preparation for the interview. This year the TLB group have spent the last six months researching and deducing innovative green solutions for BHT. It was great to see their presentation – not only in terms of making BHT greener, but for my own learning as Hannah and I will be leading the next TLB cohort. Having seen what they achieved I can really appreciate the hard work required and am excited to start this years project.”

It has been fantastic to learn from and work alongside Sarah and I am very much looking forward to building another exciting TLB programme together this year. As well as Sarah taking on her new role, in recent months we have welcomed three new Non-Executive Directors to BHT: Lise Llewellyn, Elaine Siew, and Nicola Frayne. This month, Nicola has been kind enough to allow us to get to know her a little better…

Elaine, what made you want to be part of BHT?

After spending my executive career in the private sector in both Operations and HR, I started to build a NED portfolio about 6 years ago. Whilst it might sound cliche, the pandemic exposed me to the fantastic work, commitment and efforts of the NHS and I was inspired to try and find a role for my portfolio.

When I saw the BHT role advertised there were a few things that really stood out. They were looking for a NED with experience in people/HR/org development and transformation which has been what my whole Exec career was about. I live in Berkshire which is part of the BOB system and after some research I saw that the Trust had some challenges to overcome and I’ve always loved a challenge. I’ve always believed that if you get the right hearts and minds around a table, progress is possible.

I then met several of the executive team as part of my recruitment process and just thought what a brilliant group of people they were and that I really wanted to be a part of this. And then everyone I have met since then, has just reinforced that for me and although I’ve only been here a month, I’m so happy to be here and am determined to add value if I can.

What do you think will be your biggest challenge in the first 12 months of your new NED role?

Learning and understanding all I can about the sector as this is my first venture into healthcare. As an executive I worked in different sectors and was able to assimilate quickly so I’m hoping I’ll be able to do the same here. Having said there is a lot for me to learn, I have also found in my experience that when working with people there are some fundamentals that most people are looking for in a healthy workplace; challenging and supportive leaders, opportunities to grow, being recognised, rewarded and listened to and working with people you actually care about and who care about you so in my NED role I’ll be doing all I can to contribute to and nurture a healthy, inclusive and safe workplace culture.

If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring NHS leaders, what would it be?

Step up without being asked and get stuck in before the opportunity is ‘given’ to you. Don’t wait for permission to make a difference. You may be doing work above your pay grade. You may be leading others who you don’t manage. You might not get rewarded for that in the short term, but you will be the one to prosper when the time comes. When you do get the leadership position, in the future, it won’t feel like much of a change as you will have already being doing some of it and your colleagues won’t be surprised when you get the promotion, they will be expecting it. First practising and then meeting the expectations of a role make it significantly easier to outperform when you are officially given the responsibility which is why shadowing seniors and/or caretaking elements of their roles is a great way to prepare you for your next position.

With an unlimited budget, where would you go and what would you do for your 1-month dream holiday?

I didn’t do the ‘going travelling for a few months’ thing post- or pre-university so I’ve got lots of travel destinations on my bucket list but don’t think I could incorporate them all into one month: visiting Costa Rica for the nature, seeing the cherry blossom season in Japan, dog sledding across the arctic circle, doing a horse or cattle drive across parts of the USA. I would also love to go back to Fiji where I got married as the snorkelling was out of this world!