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

Dr Neil Churchill is Director for Experience, Participation and Equalities at NHS England.

His brief includes insight and feedback, patient participation in decision-making, improvement programmes on cancer, learning disability and support for carers and national partnerships with volunteers and the voluntary sector.

Neil joined NHS England in 2013 after a 25 year career in the voluntary sector at organisations including Barnardo’s, Age Concern, Crisis and Asthma UK. He has been a Non-Executive Director for NHS South of England, an appointed member of the National Information Governance Board and a trustee of a number of charities across the UK.

Neil is a member of the Executive Board for the Beryl Institute, a change agent from the School for Change Agents and a member of Q, the quality improvement collaborative from the Health Foundation. He 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. Andrew Beresford says:

    I should like to communicate directly with Dr Neil Churchill regarding Public Engagement. I attended the Public Governing Board meeting of the Joint Devon CCG’s on Thursday (I was the only member of the public there). They were approving, at very short notice, an agenda running to 465 pages which included draft annual reports.
    I am trying to work out how to seriously improve Public Engagement as my local GP Practice in Budleigh Salterton seems to strangely regard the R D & E Foundation Trust as a Competitor and does not recommend that their patients become members of the Trust
    Given the age of the only other visiblee comment on this page I am not confident of gettinging anywhere with this particular request.

  4. 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