What our Volunteer Governors say about volunteering with SEPT

Why I became a Volunteer – public governor

The UK, my chosen country, has been very good to me. I want to put something back. So, after my early retirement, I chose to look for volunteering roles; not only that would keep me busy, but with a sense of doing something worthwhile.

Our magnificent NHS is going through a lot of changes. To influence the local issues one had to be ‘inside’ and make sure that the decisions reflected the local needs.  As a public governor, I am the sounding board so I can bring these to the people who take the decisions and feed back to the locality.

The people are enjoying longer life that brings age related complications. As part of that group, I voice the concerns. By being a volunteer, I have first-hand knowledge through the quality audits how good and efficient SEPT is. I have spoken to the relatives as well, so know the quality of service.

Being a part of the Nominations Committee, I know that the selection of the Non-Executive Directors employment process is transparent and we get the best candidate for the role. The meetings that we attend as part of the Council of Governors are a two-way decision affecting process as well.

I have learned what is practical, achievable and I take that knowledge, to other organisations. I believe that this volunteer role has enriched my life. I would recommend others to follow suit. I do hope that I have made a valuable contribution to the SEPT.


Why did I become a SEPT Governor?

I had just retired from working in London and whilst I had been a Governor of a Further and Higher Education College in London for 20 years, I found that the idea of traveling into London just for meetings had lost its appeal. My wife had worked in the NHS for many years and I felt that with my business experience I could bring a different perspective to the many problems the NHS was facing.

Do we make a difference? Yes.  At Council of Governors meetings we have the opportunity to discuss and challenge both Non-Executive Directors and Directors on their plans and decisions. In addition, there is the opportunity to ask questions at the end of every Board of Directors meeting where the range of experience and interests of Governors will usually prompt a number of questions.

Is it worthwhile and have I gained anything from being a Governor? Yes, there is an old saying ‘The more you put in the more you get out”!


What it means to be a public governor volunteer

Taking on the role of a public governor can sound daunting for some folk, but it shouldn’t be. If you have a passion for quality healthcare and want to make a real difference, then becoming a governor is right for you!

The Council of Governors is made up of folk just like you and me. You join a group of very enthusiastic folk who really want to make a difference to the way folk are cared for, to hold the Trust to account and ensure ‘the bar is always raised’ in regard to the standard of care folk receive  … the best can always be bettered.

You don’t have to be a genius or make public speeches, but you do have the opportunity to influence change, help select staff for important roles within the Trust, inspect wards, sit on committees (if you want to), and make lots of new friends, and of you have any worries, there is always someone on hand to guide you.

Being a governor has given me a real voice, boosted my own self confidence and allowed me a real insight re how services are delivered to patients in hospital, and in the community.  It has been a very rewarding role and seven years down the line, there is always something new to learn in the eve changing NHS.

As a governor I get to meet folk in my own constituency, listen to their views, help out and volunteer at promotional events and attend public meetings. It is always a joy to hear what the public have to say and play a pivotal role in taking their issues forward.

I have made so many new friends, feel valued as a governor, recruited many new members for the Trust and am always up for a challenge.

I never thought I had the qualities required to be a governor, but know now after many years in the role, that the most essential requirement is to have a passion for good quality health care …the rest come naturally.


Why I became a public governor volunteer

I wanted to contribute to effective, efficient and caring health services which use tax payers’ money to good purpose.

For over three years I have had the privilege of being allowed to listen to patients, carers and other stakeholders, then directly influence healthcare.  SEPT’s responsiveness to my questions at the monthly Board of Directors meetings and during my work on Council of Governor committees has shown a learning organisation which wants to hear us.

I have been able to sense check the reality at the delivery end with the policies and practices considered at Council of Governors and Board of Director meetings. I attend as many local stakeholders’ meetings as possible to hear from people experiencing healthcare in our areas. When I ask questions or offer improvements in the wording of formal SEPT documents, my comments are based on the views of the public, service users and staff. I can stand back from the details of health delivery to see the bigger picture as it affects health outcomes for people.  For me, working in Bedfordshire, Luton and Essex, I understand local and regional issues.  Running a very small business while being a member of seven business, charity and voluntary groups, I encourage colleagues to engage with health, becoming members of Foundation Trusts while giving me their views about health services.

I am looking for better integration of health and social care.  I want to help SEPT make a difference for people, allowing them to stay physically and mentally well in their own homes.  I work with private and public sector organisations and Government Departments on being more effective, particularly in improving diversity outcomes, as well as recruiting and developing professional staff to serve communities more appropriately.

I love learning.  I use all the opportunities to interact with staff, service users, directors, other governors to gain knowledge which I can use inside and outside the NHS.  Every meeting is fascinating as I observe what works in reaching sensible decisions to the benefit of the organisation and the stakeholders.


Me ‘a governor’ you must be joking! – public governor/service user

Having been in the mental health system almost since I learned to walk, I have seen the horrors of asylum care and how things have changed down the years.  Mental health care was always a ‘them and us’ system, they dictated the rules and patient did as they were told!

Oh how times have changed, today, from being a patient on a ward you can become a volunteer and a member of the Trust, and as a ‘member’ you can become a public governor, elected by the folk in your own area.

Would you be ‘good enough’ to be a governor …the criteria to be a governor requires you to have a passion for mental and community health care, to want to influence change and make a real difference to folks’ lives. No, you don’t need a university degree, or be a public speaker, just need the passion to make a real difference will do.

Regardless of my background, I have been a public governor for seven plus years, it has been a really enjoyable time, made lots of new friends, but more importantly had a real impact on how mental health care is delivered. I often think back and wonder what all the ‘inmates’ of yesteryear’ would make of today’s standards of care, to know that they too could have a real voice, to influence change and be treated as valued members of society  … I am not sure they would believe that was possible.

Only patients that have been in the system will understand what it feels like to be silenced, and only now, I too can appreciate what it feels like to have a voice, to know that someone is not only listening, but valuing what I have to say, and to appreciate what it feels like to be on ‘the wrong side of the sheets’.

I wasn’t sure I would cope with being a governor, but I needn’t have worried, all the help you need is to hand and my travel expenses met. Was my background a deterrent, no … it was an asset, because I have lived experience and if anyone tries to dismiss my views, heaven help them.

It has been a fantastic journey, a great confidence builder, and so rewarding to know that even ‘humble little me’ can still influence changes for better. I have a real voice, and for all the folk I spent many years of my life with in that distant past, I owe it to them to be their voice today, to instigate change and hold the Trust to account. I have the full support of the Trust, I can influence decisions, vote on key topics, sit on various committees … only if I wish to, have a voice on the choice re the appointment of key roles within the Trust, and of course, live up to my reputation for creating havoc.

If anyone has the passion and a heart, they too can volunteer to become a public governor, and never look back to regret their decision to do so. If you don’t speak up, your voice will not be heard.


Service user / public governor volunteer

I have been a volunteer for SEPT for about fourteen years.  My volunteering roles have included interview panels, co-delivering ‘Your Health Your Life’ six-week course for carers, service user and carer governor – now a public governor. All these as well as visits to SEPT wards with staff to assess not only the maintenance of buildings, but more importantly, quality of services and patient satisfaction.

Having experienced mental health issues myself, it is rewarding to me that I can, in any way I can, ensure that service users receive the high quality of care and experience that did.

Additionally, the carers’ course makes a big difference to carers’ lives and their wellbeing that I am proud to be involved in.

Finally, I always feel appreciated by all levels of SEPT staff in all that I do and I recommend volunteering as a fulfilling role.


Public Governor – south Essex

I became a governor at SEPT following my experience of being elected as a governor of Southend University Hospital for a six year period during which I enjoyed being involved in the early stages of a successful Foundation Trust.

I soon realised that being a Governor was significant.  The ‘value add’ of governors became obvious as we were able to show that our role was worthwhile in helping the Trust to succeed.

We are also involved in an exciting period of being involved in a major merger to guarantee the future of mental health patient services in Essex. That is a great challenge and will test our skills.


Find out more about becoming a Governor with SEPT