A seat for you(th) at the table

A member of the NHS Youth Forum reflects on the latest NHS Board meeting:

Throughout my volunteering experience I’ve gone from knowing little about the role boards play, to understanding how vital they are.

Not just because of the legal requirement for them, but because of the invaluable skills & expertise they provide.

I recently attended the NHS England and NHS Improvement Board Meetings in common, chaired by Lord David Prior and Baroness Dido Harding. It was an amazing experience. I felt very welcome and having the opportunity to speak to members at the end was very special.

As a young person and the founder of a new third sector organisation, I’m fascinated by the concept of governance and accountability. I’m constantly looking for inspiration to make sure I can be better at doing my job, and my trustees can do theirs. Where best to look for best practice and guidance than the board of the fifth largest employer in the world?

It got me thinking though. Throughout the private, public, and third sectors we are seeing more and more organisations adopting lived experience and youth voice at board level. There are countless examples. I have said time and time again, the NHS is a global leader in youth participation, but to hold onto that title, it needs to be forward thinking and innovative. Young people are stakeholders in the NHS’s future. We are future leaders, doctors, nurses, porters: the very people who keep the NHS moving and providing world class care.

As we head into a new decade, Chapter 7 of the Long Term Plan outlines the key actions to make sure the NHS continues to thrive. One of these is engaging people, and I believe young people are at the heart of that ambition. In the age of the internet, young people have an extensive understanding of the challenges facing society and are better equipped than ever to find the solutions.

Having patient and youth voice represented at such a high level enriches the board, creating diverse and vibrant discussions. As global citizens of a new millennium we have ideas and innovative solutions that will help the NHS connect on a closer level with communities from many different backgrounds.

Amplifying the stories and experiences of those that don’t get heard is a tough nut to crack. It’s something I, and many others, are wholeheartedly committed to. There is an opportunity for young people to support the NHS England and Improvement board, bridging the gap between senior leadership and seldom-heard voices.

This is an opportunity that will develop the NHS and the future leaders of this country and create a close link between organisations and individuals. Furthermore, having representation at that level will demonstrate in a unique way that young people are being listened to. It will no doubt encourage a more diverse array of young people to volunteer and seek a career in the health system.

You can’t be what you can’t see – which is why I firmly believe in the power of strengthening youth voice.

Brad Gudger

Brad Gudger is a member of the NHS Youth Forum.

Diagnosed with Leukaemia in 2013, Brad has extensive experience of NHS services for more than 6 years.

A champion of youth voice and co-design, he has volunteered for various organisations and has worked extensively to advocate on behalf of young people.

His experience includes advising the APPG for Young People with Cancer on various policy changes, petitioning the government to offer more support to young cancer survivors and he has spoken in Parliament numerous times about patient experience.

Brad has been an international advocate for young people as well, working with organisations such as Youth Cancer Europe and being a Young Technical Advisor for a World Health Organisation & Public Health England Collaborating Centre.

Brad founded his own charity in 2018, called Alike. Alike has been created to combat isolation amongst people with cancer using a new digital peer support platform and UK wide peer support groups.

In July 2019, he received a Diana Award for his services to young people and the cancer community.

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