Leaders in both name and action

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.

Dr Neil Churchill

Neil is Director for People and Communities at NHS England, having joined the NHS after a 25-year career in the voluntary sector. His work includes understanding people’s experiences of the NHS, involving people and communities in decision-making and leading change to improve the quality and equality of care. He has a particular focus on strengthening partnerships with unpaid carers, volunteers and the voluntary sector.

Neil has previously been a non-executive director for the NHS in the South of England, is a member of the Strategy Board for the Beryl Institute and Chair of Care for the Carers in East Sussex. He is himself an unpaid carer. Neil tweets as @neilgchurchill


  1. David Schiff says:

    An NHS survey was sent to me. Please contact me via my email or home address so I can send you my full written reply to the very nature of it.

  2. Michael Warner says:

    Dear Neil ; I wonder if I may speak with you please? Regards Michael Warner

  3. BB says:

    Dear Dr. Churchill,
    I recently came across your paper on “Improving the quality of orthotic services in England” – it made me smile as in my experience as a KAFO wearer for 60+ years, you don’t even come close to the dire reality of trying to obtain a new KAFO.
    I had one made in Merseyside about 8 years ago – the surgical boot flexes and the enire KAFO is 1″ too short – a total waste of time and money. Moving to the south-west, I tried again – it has taken 2 years to get one from Taunton hospital – part of the delay being that is is made (and ANY adjustment after initial manufacture) in Newcastle-upon-Tyne – it has covered hundreds of miles up and down the country – and still isn’t right. Taunton have a “contract” with Peacock’s in Newcastle and even though no-one here has any experience whatsoever with an O’Connor extension, they refused any free help and advice from an experienced expert in the field who works just over 10 miles away from me… can say more – no room