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.




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