Peer Leadership Academy – NHS England and People Hub

This week I attended the first two of six days of a personal development programme run jointly between NHS England and People Hub after I was successful in my application to take part in the Peer Leadership Academy.

The Derbyshire PHB Network leader Tina Brown was kind enough to forward me the applicant’s information which I found intriguing and so I made an application, and was offered a place on the final cohort of participants.

People Hub is an incredible organisation, set up by several co-founders who have direct lived experience of personal health budgets and of working to develop them. One of these, an amazing individual, Jo Fitzgerald, who pioneered the model for the son Mitchell after realising just how much more beneficial his care could be if it was modelled around his needs rather than those of the provider. Sadly, Mitchell died several years ago, but his memory lives on in the work undertaken by People Hub and Jo continues to share her own story to instigate change for others living with long term condition as well as working for the NHS England team.

Every contact I had with People Hub prior to attending the event was brilliant. They were accommodating of and interested in any adjustments they could make to help each participant get the most from the event – a pretty large undertaking considering the wide range of conditions we all had. My first contact with PeopleHub was with Rita Brewis was very positive and her passion was infectious, a great ice breaker when undertaking something new.

The Leadership Academy itself was held at the fabulous Burleigh Court Hotel in Loughborough, just down the road from where I live in Derby. I stayed the night between the two days personal development programme to minimise travel for me. The accommodation was second to none, and we were all made to feel very comfortable.

The Academy itself was way beyond my expectations. The first big surprise was that the several members of the Strategy Teams for Personal Health Budgets and Integrated Personal Commissioning were working along side us as well as presenting to us, which was fabulous. So often you attend events such as these and can feel like a vanity project, where you are rolled out for media opportunities and little else.  One person I felt an immediate connection with was Alison Austin who is the Head of Policy for Personal Health Budgets. Not only was she the only other person staying at the hotel who had food intolerances but her personal style was open and direct which I can only embrace. Her nursing background and the people skills she had acquired working in Glasgow’s A&E are still apparent and her barely detectable Scottish accent which lapses back into broad Glaswegian when she is ‘off duty’ is great.

The amount of time that had gone into planning the Academy was evident from the start. The course content was well planning and thoughtfully delivered. The balance between conversation and presentations was well made and I felt far more comfortable about meeting my sensory needs, like walking in my bare feet than I had at other sessions. I received a much better overview of just what Personal Health Budgets aspired to be, as well as exactly what Integrated Personal Commissioning is.  My understanding of the health system as a whole, and simply how disjointed it is between NHS England and the service the patient receives greatly increased. Overall I now understand just why things take as long as they do to filter through, but the two days has essentially reignited my hope that the NHS can provide a more personalised service. These changes might take four to five years to filter through to Foundation Trust service providers, but it will happen because this is essential if the NHS is to survive and adapt to the current disruption it is being subjected to. We are all consumers who are used to increasing levels of personalisation. We switch out insurance or banking provider if we get a crappy service but of course have no other options if our health is poor, or have conditions requiring treatment.

A huge amount of the work involved was around developing those participants with lived experience to be able to contribute and speak about their stories to develop PHBs and IPC. Everyone undertook a Myers Briggs profile and Steph Carson, who is a trained MBTI facilitator, worked with us all over half a day to allow each of us to understand how our profiles and personal style could affect our communication and storytelling. My profile was a little unclear as I wavered on the Introvert / Extrovert scale. I took the two profiles relating to where I might be an decided I was clearly Introvert when reading about how this group can focus on details in the environment when under stress, like cleaning or organising cupboards, which I had done not three days before. Apparently when laughter erupts upon a profile read it is pretty conclusive, so INTJ it was.

When the People Hub team elaborated on just how we might contribute in the future towards developing the concept there was a tangible buzz in the room. Opportunities included the chance to speak to clinical professionals, take part in working groups and perhaps even eventually find employment with NHS England in the team!

Overall I absolutely loved the time I spent with both the NHS England team and their People Hub partners. The course content vastly over-delivered on my expectations and I learned so much. The Leadership Academy, like my MSc seems to have come at just the right time to forward my new goal of helping others on the Spectrum get a better deal wherever and whatever their circumstances. I’m really looking forward to the next session in June and can’t wait to see what opportunities might come about because I’ve taken part.




April 2017 Lunar21: relieving the pressure, new thinking for the NHS

This evening I had the pleasure to attend the first Lunar21 of 2017 event at the Silk Mill Museum of Making in Derby. We had an excellent panel drawn from Derby and Nottingham’s diverse health and social care landscape, including the Chair of the Southern Derbyshire CCG, Dr Paul Wood and Professor of Mental Health and Social Care, Justine Schneider.The evening comprised of taking comments and questions from the floor, including those submitted in advance from people not able to attend on the evening.The timing was also particularly fortuitous as I have also recently been accepted onto an MSc for Mental Health Recovery and Social Inclusion. I have had a chance to experience some amazing learning and my horizons about just what work I might do in the future are beginning to open up.

One thing that was particularly important to me was standing up in front of a room full of strangers and talking about being really ill, including feeling suicidal when I was in the Crisis House in Derby last month. Although I have spoken about the topic to close friends and even acquaintances I have shied away from doing the same here on my blog in case people get the wrong impression. I suppose it is a hang up from my agency days when emotional ill health was considered a weakness and in many cases was preyed upon by the more fortunate, or simply more selfish. It was very empowering describing what had happened to people and one of the panel commented on my contributions that evening and said how important it was for people to talk about their experiences in mental health. She gave the example of how maternity services have improved because of women campaigning for better provision by telling their stories and the same needs to be done for this under-explored area.

I’ve spent so long trying to work out just what the hell I want to do or even can do that to have everything seemingly falling into place the way it is feels a bit weird. it is good to know that there is value in my experience and that I should be able to use it for the greater good. Like I said in my personal statement. I want to get better and thrive and help others like me get better and thrive in the best way possible.

The focus of my blog is going to slowly include more of my mental health experience in the future and also the work I am doing for my course and volunteering.

I have a lot more hope for the future and also faith in myself that I have for a long while.

In Bristol for the Open Data Camp

So I’ve been in Bristol since Friday afternoon attending the Open Data Unconference in the Watershed building on the city’s floating harbour. The weather has been beautiful and I was lucky enough to be travelling with a friend who knows the city well. I’ll hopefully get more time to write about the event and also my visit the the Arnolfini, (nominated as a Museum of the Year finalist), but here are a few photos in the meantime of just what I have been up to…

Human Library

Two weeks ago I volunteered to be a book at the Derby Human Library, a great idea where people describe themselves as a book title and others can book them out to ‘read’, or find our more about a person who might otherwise be subject to stereotypes.

I first can across the idea when Vanessa Boon, the organiser tweeted about the library, asking for volunteers who would be books. I have to say that I was intrigued and agreed to contribute across a number of subjects including ‘Autistic’, ‘Mental Illness’ and ‘Bisexual’. I am quite open about the first as I consider it to be a characteristic of my personality. I talk about my history of mental illness where appropriate as I genuinely feel that there is a still a great deal of stigma around discussing it as a subject, despite the fact that many people I know have close friend or family who has experienced quite serious mental health themselves. Unfortunately it is never brought into the public unless someone else starts the conversation.

My sexuality is something that I have generally kept private. I have known I was bi’ since I was about 14, and feel part of a distinct group, seperate from gay or straight. However prejudice is still rife, from both sides of the fence. Many people consider the fluidity of those who are attracted to both sexes to mean ambiguity, or even worse that you are easy and happy to sleep with anyone individual. I have not in the past been happy discussing it with work colleagues for example.

Anyway, the day was an amazing experience. Of 27 visits that were made to the library I spoke with 5 people, and it surprised me the topics that people were interested in; 3 for bisexual, 2 for mental illness and none for autistic. For the sake of confidentiality I cannot of course mention any details of the conversations, but simply add that the breadth of human experience is a beautiful thing and to be able to plug into it in a different way for a little while is an amazing experience.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the Human Library, there is a Facebook page for the UK  and also the Derbyshire organiser has a Facebook group to let people keep up to date with news. You can always contact Vanessa Boon on Twitter – I’m sure she’s be happy to answer questions.

Happy reading 🙂

Derby Local Offer event

I attended the Derby Local Offer event at Derby QUAD last Friday. It hosted a number of organisations who work with young people (read up the the age of 25), who have disabilities and other additional needs.

I went in a number of roles. Firstly to see if there was anything relevant for the Autism organisation I am involved in, Right of Way for ASD, second to see if there was anything that could also work for me as an Autistic individual and third to see if I could begin to figure out why services seem to stop for people who are aged 25 or 30 respectively.

Speaking to a lot of the voluntary organisations such as Umbrella, or Derby City Parent Carer Forum  and the like it is understandable. Most of them have been organised and established by groups of parents frustrated with the lack of organised support and facilities for their children and families. In these cases it is of course only natural that the focus should be on children, and increasingly on young adults as these families grow up. It still highlights the shameful lack of understanding and support for families with additional needs such as those with high functioning Autistic children in Derby. You do wonder that nobody seems to give any thought to these young people as they grow. There are also the rest of us who received our diagnoses as adults or who just got too old and so abandoned in the wilderness.

Despite everything, there are some really good ideas coming through in the city…

Derby Shared Lives offers support to adults who are vulnerable, either in their own home with a more typical support worker visiting, or alternatively by living with a host family, either for a short break or as a member of the household. Host families are trained to assist their visitors, and will be involved with things like social or household skills, getting out into the community or support in other ways.

Derby QUAD holds supportive environment screenings, which include subtitled films for deaf audiences, described films for partially sighted or blind audiences and adapted screenings for those with sensory issues, (involving reducing volume, keeping the lights up and allowing people to move around. The demonstration of these on the day of the event gave a good indication of how they differ from the usual film showings).

The St James Centre in Normanton supports individuals and their families with complex and additional needs between the ages of 3 and 35 years old. They run a range of services, from social events, employment support, and host a disabled women’s social group. Additionally, weekly sessions for children are held across the week under the ‘Fun-abil8y’ banner.

Disability Direct manage the Lottery Funded ‘the stuff’ website that acts as a great focal point for information relating to services and other organisations for young people and adults with additional needs. Like most things the service is for those who are up to the age of 25 years old, or over 50 years old. When questioned about this, the response I got was that “this is the requirement for legislation.” it was suggested that I write in to point out the disability doesn’t cease for 25 years in the middle. it would be good for somebody to perhaps pick up on this and make provision without needing a poke though!

Jumpz Fitness hold fitness classes for individuals with additional needs or a disability. They take place once a week at Derby College between 11 and 12am. THe organiser Michelle has experience of working as a support worker and is also a competitive powerlifter. I spoke to her at the event and she was really engaged, describing the project as something that allows her to combine both the passions in her life.  Jumpz also works with an Aikido instructor in Milford to provide adapted lessons, weekly on a Sunday.

If there’s anything else you’re aware of please let me know. It would be good to be able to make further connections.

Canvas Conference 2015 – Part 1

On the 22nd October I attended the fourth Canvas Conference, hosted by 383 Project, in the Birmingham Library. 383 describe their digital product event as:

“revealing the insider stories from teams building some of the world’s most useful products & services. Over a one day conference, you’ll hear from people who are solving problems at the intersection of technology & business.”

Canvas conference 2015 registration
This was the second time I had ‘canvassed’ myself and the growth in the event between this year and the last was self-evident. The number of delegates had doubled from under 150 to over 300. The number of speakers increased across the day, as well as the ground covered in their talks.

The day included ample time to socialise and network. I personally spoke to people who had travelled from as far a field as Brighton, Belfast and even mainland Europe for the day. A great moment when Birmingham is attracting delegates from the South-east and London.

Networking before the mornings talks began
Increasingly Canvas is attracting more prestigious and international brand speakers, as well as selecting from a crop of innovative home-grown talent; from established brands such as Travelex, through to smaller start-ups, like Go Cardless.

This year the full range of talks focused exclusively on digital products and services; a nice change from 2014 when some of the speakers chose a broader ‘operational’ theme to their segments.

There were eight speakers in total :

Tom Guy | Hive:

“Designing the next generation of smart home products for the home.”

Covered the development of the product and customer experiences, from working as a start up within a traditional utility company, through to hiring Yves Behar to conceptualise product development. The process of the product’s journey was the thread of this talk and the importance of usability and intuitive design being central to the creation of Hive. A really enlightening piece of an innovative move by British Gas to differentiate themselves in their industry,

Julien de Preaumont | Withings

“Creating connected objects that bring technology into your everyday life.”

Withings create health products with intelligence. Like Hive, the UI and UX is of paramount importance and as a company Withings have kept the basic functions of, for example, electric scales, whilst overlaying additional function and integration with devices such as smart phones and smart watches. As a brand Withings are very much working within the sphere of dominant digital trends, namely the internet of things and also health tech.  Combining with this the design aesthetic for products that would usually be ugly (think things like NHS blood monitors) they are responding to the needs of an ageing population who are used to every objects having a sophisticated finish, as well as recording personal data for future use.

The Medium tech' ecosphere
Joe Polastre | Medium

“Building a community of readers and writers offering a unique perspective on ideas, large and small.”

Medium is a web based publishing interface that allows users to write around what they are passionate about. The social element is crucial. Medium are interested in extrapolating data from their site to make the experience more personal and intuitive, as well as improving upon the traditional blog/forum/comment experience that typifies internet discussion. Readers have the ability to comment inline as well as at the end of the articles. Unlike the traditional interface, comments are hierarchied against your own network on the site. Those from your followers or those you follow are listed first. Design is considered  and consistent across different screens and platforms.

Probably the most interesting aspect of Joe’s talk was the diagrammatic overview of the Medium tech’ eco-system. it was huge! Integrating systems from cross-screen synchronisation to email data visualisation, allows Medium to cut and analyse data in way that are not possible in many organisations.

In clustering content by keyword, topic and author Medium have been able to use semantics to suggest links to content groupings with surprising benefits. They discovered that spammers had begun using the site and tended to associate their posts with certain categories and keywords. Clustering those content allowed Medium to identify and remove spam far more effectively as a result.

Liz Crawford | Birchbox

“Helping customers discover the best in beauty, grooming and lifestyle products.”

Birchbox are a pureplay brand that has recently moved into bricks and mortar retailing. The whole offering is based around personalisation, from the customer journey, working from beginning to end, to the discovery box content.

Birchbox consider their each customer as a whole, and understand that their customers see the brand as a whole, not a bunch of connected components – email, app, store, packaging. Like many of the other speakers Birchbox create a physical product, however with something as subjective a beauty and grooming, the cost of making mistakes with such a physical product is much higher. Birchbox employ data analysis and learning at all stages of their customer journey to build up a picture of their consumer over time. They have learned to detect changes in the state of their customers and respond to each individually, rather than to a schedule driven by a marketing calendar.

Birchbox personalisation word-cloud

I particularly enjoyed this talk, one of the few given by a woman in a high level tech’ role and Liz’s obvious confidence with the mathematical aspects of the role she undertakes. The complexity of the data handles by Birchbox was huge and the algorithmic analysis that allows it to orchestrate the customer facing side of Birchbox was explained in simple and relevant terms to the audience – a inspirational approach to what could have been a dry topic.

Dave Wascha | Travelex

“Creating a smart digital payment card for travellers.”

Travelex work in a traditional industry and have decided to gain the edge by leading disruption rather than being subjected to it. They have gone back to basics and examined the challenges their consumers face; understanding currency exchange, keeping cards safe when abroad, reducing reliance upon their banks and the fees that they charge.

Product responses to these include a currency conversion app featuring a drag facility that demonstrates currency conversion and fees on an increasing / decreasing scale and a card that allows the user to register a number of cards against it, negating the need to carry them out whilst on hoilday. The same product also spoofs withdrawals abroad being made from within the UK. In the first 6 months beta test with 25,000 users the card has saved in excess of £500,000 in forign withdrawal and card usage fees.

As well as being an engaging speaker, Tom told the story of the Travelex brand in a contrasting fashion to the previous speakers. He was able to draw comparisons with both Hive and his own work in Travelex’s decision not to create a new standalone brand as the history of the company was one of innovation, despite it’s string brand heritage and recognition.

The first half of the event was engaging and was brilliant as exposing some real life examples of the kinds of trends we have heard bandied about for a while; the internet of things, the semantic web, pureplay and retail brands crossing over into each others space.

The conference featured a further five speakers who I will follow up on at a later date owing to the size of the post. Hopefully this will be enough to whet your appetite and potentially order tickets to next years event.