After having been a volunteer enter and view officer at Healthwatch Derbyshire (HWD) for 18 months an opportunity became available for volunteers to become board members and trustees. I was unsure whether to apply as my background was 35 years as a police officer, I had never worked in the NHS.
I was encouraged by HWD’s volunteer coordinator to apply as I had already gained much experience about the NHS and HWD as a volunteer and it was felt my background in the emergency services was good life experience.
The application and interview was very easy and friendly. The interviewers were more keen to find out about me rather than trying to catch me out. It was very relaxed, almost like an informal chat. I was fortunate and passed.
Eighteen months in I have never looked back. It is interesting, never ever boring but can be challenging at times. The board occasionally has to make difficult decisions about recruitment and finance and it’s not always been easy directing the organisation through difficult times (like the pandemic) and ensuring that it keeps functioning no matter what happens around us.
The role is much easier now that board meetings can take place remotely as travelling time has been drastically reduced.
I would estimate commit to around 10-12 hours per month month, sometimes more because I have taken on extra pieces of work but it would be easily manageable on eight hours a month.
Whilst it has been testing at times you are never alone, there are always other board members to talk to who have a vast amount of expertise and knowledge drawn from a variety of different backgrounds.
We are like a family; I do not say that lightly. Somehow, one of us always has a solution to a challenge as they have often faced that same problem before.
After policing I never thought I would find anything as rewarding again, but I have and feel very lucky.
What attributes do you need? I’m often asked this question. I think life experience is essential, you need to love the NHS and keen to play a part in highlighting areas of good practice and those areas that need improvement. Most of all you need to care about people.
People with HR skills, a finance background or mental health experience is good, but by no means essential. I mention those three specifically because we are slightly under represented on the board with those skills.
Please give it a thought, I know you will enjoy it. It certainly keeps your mind active and it comes with the feel-good factor of making Derbyshire a bit of a better place for those using NHS and care services.