Leaders in both name and action – Neil Churchill

NHS England’s Director for Improving Patient Experience salutes the new awards recognising patient leaders:

A Google search reveals how the phrase ‘patient leader’ is being increasingly used across the NHS – and yet the implications are not always understood.

I have always liked David Gilbert and Mark Doughty’s description of patient leaders as effective agents of change, whether that’s by improving the quality of health services; promoting health and wellbeing within communities or generating solutions to health care problems.

Patient leaders use their own personal experiences to campaign for better services for others; they provide a powerful voice and shine the spotlight where things need to change; they motivate, inspire and organise fellow patients and citizens to engage in healthcare issues; they provide training, support and mentoring to others who can benefit from it; they join or they form patient and carer groups and charities that agitate and inform; and they do all these things largely as volunteers, for no other reason than they want to make a difference and bring about change.

All of those being recognised today in the first HSJ Patient Leader Awards have fascinating, insightful and moving stories to tell of their own or their loved ones’ experiences of NHS care – good, bad or indifferent.

They have a wide variety of backgrounds and come from all walks of life, but what unites them is that they have all made the decision to use their experiences as a positive driver for change.

The diversity of patient leaders is striking and significant. Young people who have championed better care quality for children. People with learning disabilities who have provided inspiration and challenge. People who have used poor experiences of mental health care to transform clinical practice. These are crucial voices for all of us to hear and heed in our work.

NHS England is delighted to sponsor these awards, which put patient leaders on an equal footing with clinicians, managers, innovators, BME champions, rising stars, senior decision makers in the NHS who are already recognised through HSJ awards. And we celebrate the changes in mindset, culture and practice that these leaders are bringing.


Image of Neil ChurchillNeil Churchill, is Director for Improving Patient Experience, NHS England, and National Quality Board Patient Experience sub-group member.

He took up his current role in April 2013, where he leads improvement work on Domain 4 of the Outcomes Framework, ensuring patients and carers have a positive experience of care.

Prior to joining the NHS, Neil had a 25-year career in the voluntary sector, most recently as Chief Executive of Asthma UK, and before that at organisations including Barnardo’s, Crisis and Age Concern.

Neil was a Non-Executive Director for NHS South of England and a member of the National Information Governance Board until 2013. He is a now a trustee of a number of charities and lives in Sussex.

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