On the 14th of September 1969 I had the great good fortune to join the NHS National Administrative Training Scheme, and so began 50 years of fellowship and fulfilment which continue to this day. I joined the NHS as a preparation for my intended career as a Labour MP. I did not approve of professional politicians and wanted to learn about something useful before looking for a seat. Very soon, I fell out of love with politics and fell in love with the NHS and by the mid-1970s I knew I was meant to be an NHS lifer!
In any other age I would have been an Anglican Priest. I grew up under the shadow of my mother’s explicit intention that I should be the unmarried Archbishop of Canterbury with the church under her very able control. Sadly, my faith deserted me and I knew I could not be a priest long before I realised that I am a Christian Agnostic, as defined by the great Richard Holloway: someone who attempts to live by Christian values, while of course failing, and values their Christian heritage but does not believe in the supernatural bits.
Instead, it was in the NHS that I found my purpose and my cause. A fact that would, no doubt, confirm Nigel Lawson’s disparaging view that “the NHS is the closest thing the English people have to a religion”.
The NHS has given me 50 years of fulfilment – 36 years as a full-time manager, 14 years as a consultant and coach, 6 of those 14 years as a Trust Chair, 8 of those years chairing Pharmacy Boards on behalf of the UK Governments and 11 of those years as Patron of the NHS Retirement Fellowship. Being Patron, with the wonderful Ethel Armstrong, is one of the greatest privileges of my time in the NHS. It is a great joy to be part of the Fellowship.
The NHS has given me fulfilment because I have felt useful from the start. Long before the research of Beverley Alimo-Metcalfe and Michael West demonstrated that leadership and management make a difference, not just to staff, but to patients, service users and carers, I knew that I was serving a worthwhile organisation and that I was making a difference.
The NHS has given me fellowship. I was very fortunate to be part of a group of trainees who liked each other and stayed in touch. Every 5 years, from our 20th anniversary in 1989, we have got together as a group and in October of this year we meet in London. 10 of the 12 trainees still living will be there. That is a good example of fellowship – “a friendly association, especially with people who share one’s interests”.
I have worked, and often become friends, with many wonderful people on the scheme, and in Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham, South Tees, Gloucester, Wessex, the NHS Executive and Department of Health, County Durham and Darlington, County Durham and Tees Valley, North Staffordshire and Northumberland, Tyne and Wear.
I have been, and still am, inspired, humbled, educated and trained by many genuine, hardworking and trustworthy people of whom the very best have been capable of great kindness, compassion and generosity. The NHS attracts some people of extraordinary intellect, expertise and self-sacrifice.
I could mention so many people, but I will limit it to seven.
- Jack Newton, my first boss, Superintendent of the Royal Hospital in Sheffield, and a servant leader and manager in practice. My book, Other People’s Shoes: 40 questions for leaders and managers is dedicated to Jack. By the time I left the Royal in 1975 I had learned the basics. I knew that patients should always be in our hearts and minds and that staff should be supported and developed. I also knew that as managers, we were there to serve the staff who served the patients and that our behaviour should reflect that role. There was no place for arrogance or self-importance – service, humility and integrity were our guiding values.
- David Clark, the Medical Superintendent of Fulbourn Hospital was the first Psychiatrist I encountered and how fortunate I was. When I arrived at Fulbourn as a Trainee in 1971 David had been in post for 18 years having been appointed in 1953 as the youngest ever Medical Superintendent. David created therapeutic communities and his book Administrative Therapy remains a powerful example of good practice. David took time to educate me. I did a project on the community that I was attached to, and I still have the project in my papers.
- Tom Arie, the founding Professor of Health Care for the Elderly at Nottingham taught me about old age when I was in my late 20s and in the role of Sector Administrator of Nottingham General and University Hospitals, now Queen’s Medical Centre. Tom’s wonderful lectures and stories introduced me to the wonderful notion that old people were indeed people who could enjoy life to the full, including sex! Tom’s advice has helped me to grow old.
- Rennie Fritchie, Baroness Fritchie of Gloucester, who as Chair of the Gloucester Health Authority was my boss for the last two years in Gloucester, has been and remains one of my most valued colleagues and friends and gave me valuable advice on the book. I have learned so much from Rennie including the difference between the urgent and the important. Rennie provided a role model for the role of Chair that I have done my best to follow in North Staffordshire and at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear. Rennie has an extraordinary range of qualities including intelligence, empathy, clarity, warmth and insight and is a wonderful coach.
- Bob Dearden, one of the brightest and best NHS managers and my coach for the last 14 years of my full-time work. Bob’s wisdom, experience and challenge were extremely valuable to me and I would not have survived in senior roles for so long without his support.
- My excellent counsellor, who I worked with for more than ten years through some of my most difficult times in my life – without his astonishing empathy, understanding and wisdom I would not have made it to early retirement and beyond.
- My wonderful GP, whose expertise, intelligence, compassion and patience have got me through many difficult years and still sustain me today.
The most powerful experience of the last 50 years has been as a carer for 25 years for a member of my family with mental illness. I have learned much from his resilience and courage and a great deal about mental health services from the viewpoint of service users and carers. This learning has informed my work.
I am very fortunate that I am celebrating my 50th anniversary in the company of my colleagues at Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust. I have known about the Trust and its predecessor organisations for many years because of my time in the North East; in the last ten years I have shared thoughts about the world we live in and about leadership and management at over 100 workshops in the Trust and eighteen months ago I had the great good fortune to be appointed by the Council Of Governors as the Chair of the Council and of the Board of Directors. It is the best organisation that I have ever served, and I learn every day. Because the Trust is so well led and managed by John Lawlor and his colleagues at all levels, I have been able to spend time understanding what makes it special. I wrote an article for the Staff Bulletin in which I identified 10 factors;
- No complacency, even though the Trust has twice been rated as Outstanding by the Care Quality Commission
- Values are lived – service users are at the centre of all that we do, and staff are supported and developed
- A powerful circle of experience – high calibre and long serving staff and the respect and trust that exists between them, supported by a vast array of opportunities for training and education
- Curiosity and innovation – there is a strong desire to do better and to learn from the best
- A long and distinguished history of research and development
- Generations of able clinical and managerial leaders
- Many outstanding leaders and managers at all levels and in all occupations and professions
- Information and IT that is among the best in the NHS
- Excellent support and estates services imbued with NHS values
- Excellent internal communications with regular bulletins including a weekly staff bulletin, and bulletins on safe care and on health and well being
I feel profoundly fortunate to be celebrating my 50th anniversary of working for and with the NHS as one of the people of NTW, and to have the opportunity to serve them and to support them in serving service users and carers.
50 years on, I have fellowship and fulfilment.
Ken Jarrold CBE