Six members of staff from the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) were invited to 10 Downing Street to attend a tea party hosted by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Each of the staff members were chosen by WSFT chief executive Stephen Dunn, CBE, in recognition of their hard work. They were also peer-nominated ‘Shining Lights’ in the 2018 and 2019 staff awards.
Helen Ballam, ward manager at Newmarket Community Hospital; Sue Deakin, trauma and orthopaedics consultant; Ali Devlin, clinical practice facilitator; Marilou Franco, theatre nurse; Gylda Nunn, integrated therapies manager; and Dr Vivek Rajagopal, clinical director for medicine, made their way to London to discuss the challenges faced by the NHS, potential solutions to issues, and to share stories of how WSFT staff go the extra mile for their patients.
Gylda Nunn said: “We had a really good day and embraced the opportunity to meet the Prime Minister. We had lots to say and felt it was a real opportunity to share the pressures felt by frontline NHS staff.
“Many topics were discussed including how we should value health and care staff, continued professional development, recruitment, and I obviously flew the flag for allied health professions. I genuinely felt like we were listened to and appreciated the opportunity to speak to those in a position to help make changes.”
Ali Devlin said: “It was a great experience and important that we could air our views about what NHS staff need and the challenges we face. For me personally, I raised concerns about the complexity of recruiting overseas nurses and how we need to make that process easier for both NHS Trusts and for the nurses themselves. I also discussed the need to bring back student nurse bursaries to help support our recruitment efforts.”
Vivek Rajagopal added: “I was really honoured to receive the invitation. On the day it all felt a bit surreal! It was a surprisingly informal event and, considering it is such a busy time in Parliament, many key figures had taken time out of their busy schedules to come along. We all had time to talk with them, and discuss our views and opinions. It was a fantastic opportunity to represent the Trust and, in particular, my frontline colleagues.”
As well as meeting Prime Minister Boris Johnson, local West Suffolk MP Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and Jo Churchill, MP for Bury St Edmunds and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Department of Health and Social Care were also in attendance.
Jo Churchill MP said: “It was wonderful to see so many of the shining lights from West Suffolk Hospital at the Downing Street Reception. As ever I learnt a lot and am looking forward to some work experience with Gylda to extend my learning further.”