Youth Voice Summit: thanks for inspiring us!

The Chief Nursing Officer for England reflects on her visit to the NHS Youth Voice Summit:

I was delighted to attend the NHS Youth Voice Summit last week; an event co-designed and co-produced with young people. Gabby and Dom did a brilliant job of co-chairing the event and today they have taken over my blog space to give their reflections on the day:

Looking back at the Youth Voice Summit 2019 it’s mind-blowing to think about all we achieved in just a few short hours. The event brought together over 200 children and young people, youth support workers and senior leaders with one key aim – to discuss the ambitions set out within the NHS Long Term Plan and how these goals can be achieved in the context of youth volunteering and social action.

The reason the day holds such special memories for us is due to the value that was placed on the skills and experiences of the young people in attendance. Dom and I were honoured to be chosen as co-hosts for the day and having us chairing the event mirrors the behind the scenes work done by our peers.

All six workshops on the day were co-designed and co-delivered by young people. We also opened both our sessions by hearing spoken word pieces by young people on the Long Term Plan. While we did give senior leaders to chance to present to the group and offer their reflections on the discussions they had been a part of, it was touching to see individuals such as Martin: CEO of St John’s Ambulance, in attendance merely to soak up all the knowledge on offer.

It is now a week on and we have had time to reflect on the summit and what we have learnt. We had a phenomenal day, it was a newish experience chairing an event of that size and it was an honour.

We experienced the full spectrum of emotions from shedding tears as we listened to the spoken word reflections and laughed as our timings and schedule slowly drift into oblivion. Whilst we learnt to let go of schedule a little, the day also bolstered our belief that children really can achieve when supported and given the environment to thrive.

This is something that we have believed for a while but over time as we have seen failed participation and been lectured by cynical adults, slowly but surely this once firm belief had become eroded. We want to sincerely thank the leaders that took time out to commit wholeheartedly to listening and treating our young attendees are peers. You allowed our workshop leads to facilitate amazingly lively conversations on well-trodden issues including transition, workforce and digital to draw out quirky and innovative ideas.

Seeing you being interviewed by Young Reporters in attendance and responding so authentically to their probing thoughts and questions was heart-warming. Thank you.

We also want to extend our gratitude to our attendees. We’re not sure how many of you will read this blog, a form of literature that is most definitely not frequented by 10-19 year olds, but by unashamedly sharing your stories and journeys with us, we’ve taken huge steps in understanding how you want to see the NHS work and hopefully in encouraging leaders to engage more closely with a quarter of the population that they really fail to do so.

The summit, as phenomenal as it was, is not the end goal. It is the first big step in a journey to true co production of children and young people services in the NHS.

This event thrived due to investment of time and resources by NHS England, NHS Youth Forum, The Association of Young People’s Health, #iWill, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health plus others, but this must continue to allow young people to continue to shape the agenda.

A report from the event will be produced with clear actions about how we will continue to work with partners in delivering key commitments within the Long Term Plan. We are also hoping to continue blogging and inviting others to do so, so that you are able to join this amazing journey with us and see us grow and take action.

Ruth May

Ruth enjoyed national appointments with NHS Improvement and Monitor, as well as regional and trust leadership roles, before becoming the Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) for England in January 2019.

In June 2022, as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Honours, Ruth was awarded a DBE for her services to nursing, midwifery and the NHS since she started her nurse training in 1985. Upon receiving her Damehood, Ruth recognised the expertise of nursing and midwifery colleagues in caring for people at every stage of their lives and the vital role that the professions and care staff played during the pandemic. Ruth has led the nursing, midwifery and care professions’ response to COVID-19 in England and led collaborative work with UK CNO colleagues, the NMC and trade unions to ensure agreement and consistent messaging on key issues.

She is passionate about nurturing the next generation of NHS nursing and midwifery leaders and encouraging professional development opportunities. This includes advocating for improved mental health awareness, championing volunteer activity to support the frontline workforce, and she is a vocal supporter of the WRES agenda and increased diversity across the NHS.

Proud mum to her wonderful daughter, Ruth is a great believer in a healthy professional and home life balance for all.

Find Ruth on Twitter @CNOEngland / #teamCNO.

Gabrielle Matthews

Gabrielle is a member of the NHS Youth Forum and has consulted on the NHS Long Term Plan, with the APPG on Young People’s Health and various other system transformation projects. She also works as a Young Technical Advisor at the WHO Collaborating Centre for Public Health Nursing and Midwifery, which has a focus on maternal and child health.

She is the former Chair of the Young Persons’ Advisory Group at Birmingham Children’s Hospital (2015-2019) and has recently become a member of my NHS Assembly, advising the NHS England and Improvement board on their implementation of the Long Term Plan.

Through these roles and her own healthcare journey, she has developed a keen interest in children and young people’s experiences of care; particularly when transitioning between services, giving consent, receiving difficult news and in safeguarding proceedings.

Gabrielle is a third year medical student at Imperial College School of Medicine (ICSM), which affords her another perspective on the NHS. She sits on the ICSM student Union as Vice-Chair of Welfare. Through this and other volunteer roles, she became a #iwill Ambassador at StepUpToServe in 2018.

Dominic Smithies

Dom is a member of the NHS Youth Forum. He has a passion about addressing health inequalities and about embedding health literacy into education.

Dom works for Student Minds, the UK’s student mental health charity, as the Programmes Manager (Health Inequalities) and also volunteers with Pride in London in the Community Engagement team.

Prior to his role at Student Minds, Dom was the Community & Wellbeing Sabbatical Officer at the University of York’s Students’ Union where he represented 18,000 students on all things health & happiness. He prioritised improving mental health and supporting the liberation networks.

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