Our dedicated Steering Group members help to plan our priorities for our work to ensure we find out the views of local people on health and social care services. We met up with Steering Group Chair Bob, from Cheltenham, to find out more about his role.
What do you do as a Steering Group Chair?
I do a great deal of listening to colleagues who have a tremendous wealth of knowledge about what’s going on. Sometimes it’s first-hand experience of local health or social care or maybe they are reporting back on significant Gloucestershire health service decision-making boards or committees. The Steering Group is good at spotting trends in public perception, which enables us to ask challenging questions of the providers.
What’s the most rewarding aspect of the job?
It seems a bit simplistic to say it but one of the most rewarding parts is being able to make a difference. Healthwatch Gloucestershire representatives are invited to some of the most important and influential decision-making meetings which are discussing health and social care provision across the county – and beyond in many cases. Money is tight and so clever and cost-effective new ways of working are always emerging from the commissioners and care providers, so we need to find out what that’s like in terms of patient and carer experience.
Tell us about the sort of people you meet in your job.
At first, I met a lot of heads, directors, assistant directors, leaders, commissioners, assistant commissioners, deputy commissioners, nurses, GPs and of course strategists all using strangely baffling acronyms which they all understood….and I didn’t. However, people in need of care have no need for acronyms and to be fair I think health care professionals are now much better with communication and patient/carer experience. I can now pop into care homes and ask residents and their families confidentially about what they really think about their care. I can listen to the strategist talk about an innovative new care streaming system and then ask a patient what it’s like to be innovatively streamed! It’s very revealing.
What sort of health and social care issues are people in Gloucestershire talking about the most?
Statistically the top three are probably mental health services, access to GPs and transport to medical appointments.
What did you do before this job?
I started off as a reporter for a regional newspaper in the Midlands then moved into commercial radio as a presenter and producer. In the late 90s I moved into BBC Local Radio as a news editor and then progressed through management in regional television. At one time I was Managing Editor of the BBC in the Channel Islands which was amazing. When I left the BBC, I gained a university masters degree in Psychology and for the last few years I have been a Mental Health Act Manager with the 2gether NHS Foundation Trust in Gloucestershire, The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership and the Priory Private Hospital in Bristol.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
Most of my spare time is taken up with Healthwatch Gloucestershire and being Chair of Governors at a Cheltenham Primary School. The children keep me motivated and the speed at which they learn and develop is awesome. I also spend rather too much time try to work out health service acronyms.