Gordon Davenport is a staff governor for children and young people’s services at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and a case manager for the new Thames Valley Provider Collaborative for children and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS.)

Based near Bath, Gordon initially got interested in the governor role three years ago, wanting to represent the Banes, Swindon and Wiltshire CAMHS services and the region’s staff in Oxford Health’s Council of Governors. At the time he was a clinical specialist for addictions in the CAMHS outreach services. In April this year he started in his new role as a case manager just as the coronavirus pandemic gained hold. Not only has COVID-19 hampered Gordon visiting hospitals; he was unfortunate enough to have the virus himself, along with his wife and son.

“For a week it was like having a bus parked on your chest!” he says.

The Thames Valley Collaborative for CAMHS is part of NHS England’s New Models of Care initiative, and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust is its lead provider. Its main objective is to bring care closer to home through local providers working more closely together; that is, children and young people under 18 years of age should be admitted to hospital as close to home as possible, should they need a psychiatric hospital stay.

“We know that admission times are shorter and recovery faster when people are not placed miles away from home,” Gordon says. “To be able to see family and friends and make links with community CAMHS teams as well as engage with activities and hobbies can only help speed discharge.”

As a case worker, Gordon is responsible for working with three hospitals across Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire: the Highfield Unit in Oxford, Willow House in Wokingham, Berkshire and Huntercombe Maidenhead in Maidenhead. Along with his co-case workers Gordon’s job is to ensure the quality of care in the in-patient units and to track patient’s pathways through the in-patient estate.

“At the moment we are shadowing NHS England until our trust assumes full responsibility for the collaborative,” Gordon explains. The current plan is to “go live” in April 2021.

As a governor, Gordon has joined two governor sub-groups – Staff Experience Group and Safety and Effectiveness Group, which he also chairs.

“When I became a governor, I wanted to represent staff in the area where I am based and gain a new perspective to the trust; especially to why decisions are made the way they are. I feel I have got a better understanding of the wider complexity of decision making; if staff ask me why this is done this way, I have a better idea or can find out more to respond to the question. And I have also been able to challenge and question the board’s decision making,” he says.

Particular areas he wants to pursue are career progression for staff at Oxford Health and more whole-person care for young people.

 “We need to challenge our hierarchies so that when our people gain new clinical skills, they have an incentive to stay at our trust. Of course, not everyone will be a clinical specialist, but, for instance, if you are an occupational therapist and develop new skills, that should be rewarded. That would improve recruitment and help retain our staff. We have much to develop in this area,” he says.

In CAMHS services Gordon is keen to see a move towards what could fall under social prescribing – guiding people towards activities that support recovery, health and wellbeing. Social prescribing is also part of NHS England Long Term Plan.

“For some people doing something different just works better than for instance talking therapies, and there’s a lot of evidence for that,” he notes.

Of course, Gordon continues his initial mission from three years ago: to make sure that Banes, Swindon and Wiltshire are recognised in Oxford Health’s decision making and operations.

“I do realise that operating over such a big geographical area brings its own challenges, but I do feel we are still too Oxford-centric,” he says.

“It could be simple things like certain part of your training is about to expire but the next course in your area is in three months’ time,” he describes. But in this, despite the many downsides, the coronavirus pandemic has caused some developments that can be seen as positive.

“We have seen meetings and more training move online, and it has its positives – although I do think that face to face interaction is still needed and lot can be missed when communicating on screens,” he says.

Outside work Gordon has been keeping busy with a new puppy, cooking and occasional circuit training. In his governor profile three years ago Gordon described himself as the “world’s worst surfer.” He states that his mastering of the waves hasn’t improved from those days, but his cooking has been greatly appreciated.

“I made a roast dinner when my wife and son had Covid, and although they had lost all sense of taste and smell they said: ‘nice texture!’” he laughs. More recently he gave his son a birthday dinner that took some 24 hours to prepare.

“My family says cooking is my way of showing love.”

You can contact Gordon and all Oxford Health governors at contactyourgovernor@oxfordhealth.nhs.uk

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