What is it about your job that you feel would surprise the public?
My role is incredibly varied – from communications and engagement to integrated governance and outpatient services. It’s a busy, demanding job looking after lots of ‘hidden’ services like clinical governance, which play a vital role in the safe running of the hospital and the care provided for our patients.
What’s been the biggest change you’ve seen since you started working in the NHS and social care?
The health and care environment never stays the same for very long. I started in the acute health sector in 2007 and the health landscape is totally different now, both in terms of national and local structures and in the challenges faced. Whether it’s legislative and policy change, regulatory change, advances in science and medicine, innovation, public health – the challenges faced in the NHS are ever evolving.
If you could make one change to the NHS and social care over the next 10 years, what would it be?
More investment in those areas that impact health in the long term, such as poverty, isolation and poor housing, as well as mental health and primary care. We also need primary legislation that reflects national and local structures so that the governance – and local accountability – is clear.
Change from the top
If you could give Matt Hancock one piece of advice, what would it be?
For anyone working in health, every decision you make can have a profound effect on the services we all use – that is an incredible responsibility. Keep talking and listening to the people using and working in the NHS every day to make sure you get it right.
What do you wish people at the top of the NHS understood?
I wish they understood what really matters to staff. Whenever I ask staff what is important, work-life balance is a huge issue, but so too are things like car parking. We need to listen to what they are telling us and act on it. We need to retain our skilled staff and make the NHS somewhere people want to work – for the entirety of what might be a 40-year career.
Policy in practice
What policy have you seen successfully implemented, and why did it work?
Through sheer determination, bereaved families have brought about incredible changes in care standards, clinical practice and legislation. From awareness around sepsis, improving the safety of maternity and neonatal care and introducing human factors in safety-critical environments, families have campaigned through their grief to improve care for others. Their contribution to better and safer care in the NHS is humbling.
What policy have you seen fail, or not be as successful as first intended?
Policies and legislation to improve transparency – from Duty of Candour through to subject access requests and freedom of information – are incredibly important, but the approach of individual organisations is inconsistent and often arduous. We need to make it simpler, quicker and easier for people to access information about their own health and care – information is a powerful equaliser between individuals and institutions.
What policy and/or change in behaviour are you currently trying to implement, and how’s it going?
I’m a huge advocate of flexible working and run a campaign called FlexNHS, which I founded with a colleague I met over Twitter! We hear all the time from staff – particularly women and mothers – who are negatively impacted by a lack of flexibility at work, whether that’s shift patterns, lack of opportunity for progression in part-time roles, or when it comes to juggling caring responsibilities. We can do better than this, and we must. I know it features in this week’s Interim People Plan and it’s also a priority for groups like the Health and Care Women Leaders Network, of which I’m part.
The NHS is under pressure because...
Of rising demand and overburdened staff. We need to recognise and react to what matters most to our workforce if we want to keep them.
Kate Jarman is Director of Corporate Affairs at Milton Keynes University Hospital. Alongside Aasha Cowey, she is also the co-founder of FlexNHS, a support and resource network to promote and enable flexible working in the NHS.