Maddy Radburn is a public governor for Oxfordshire at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust. This is her fifth year as a governor, after she was re-elected in May 2019. With a 35-year career in the NHS and many public service roles in her home town, Witney, Maddy has many sources of expertise to draw on for the benefit of Oxford Health. She is also clear about why she is a governor.
“I believe that every governor comes to this role because they want to make a difference, not just be a nodding dog,” she says.
“And making a difference does not always mean making a change. It is about introducing an idea or a stream of thought, not necessarily to alter the trust but to take it forward. Or it may be about making the trust question what they are doing: Is this the right way? Is it achieving the goals it has set for itself? Have they thought about this clearly?”
“As governors our role is to hold the board to account with our questioning. A governor becomes a critical friend. We don’t want to fall out with the board – or with anyone else. But if we can identify that a strategy is not working and is affecting the patients, the patients’ relatives and also the staff then we need to highlight it and ask for change where change is needed. We do this through the non-executive directors who are good sounding boards.
Maddy notes: “I’m quite passionate that the voices of public should be heard, and their questions answered. Often there is a clear and good answer which you can take back to your constituents and everything is fine. Often there is a good idea based on personal experience. So, in addition to holding the board to account, governors have a very clear link to the staff, patients, carers and the public.”
Maddy’s particular passion is community services, and they are the very reason she wanted to become a governor. She is a secretary of a patient participation group for a big general practice of 18,000 patients in Witney and a chair for the West Oxfordshire Patients’ Forum.
“We do a lot of work with the practice and I have a direct link to the patients who know that I am a governor of Oxford Health. They bring me queries about the trust – and I bring them news about the trust. It’s a two-way system,” Maddy says.
She applauds the creation of a managing director role for Community Services, to which Dr Ben Riley was appointed in the spring. “My aim in the next year and maybe another term is to work closely with him and link him in with all the work I am doing with the patient groups in west Oxfordshire.”
Maddy believes Oxford Health’s biggest challenges are managing such a large, varied organisation and in tandem with this managing patient expectations.
“Apart from Covid, that is! Keeping up with the demand and managing patient expectation is a huge task. To some extent the expectations have reduced during the recent months, but then we have the challenge of identifying hidden problems. How many people are not going to admit they need support for their mental health?” she ponders.
On achievement front, Maddy believes that the trust governor structure has become stronger over the years.
“We have become friends with a common denominator: we all want to help the trust with our experience and expertise. There’s real camaraderie and respect amongst us as governors, and a willingness to work together and take things forward.
Asked how she’s faired with the pandemic, Maddy laughs:
“I’ve been incredibly busy! I became a call taker for the prescription delivery service, taking up to 45 phone calls per day. I signed up to six weeks but did 20. The people didn’t just want to talk about their prescriptions; they wanted to talk about what their dog or cat had done or how they’d burnt the saucepan that morning. I’ve talked 20 weeks non-stop. I’ve learnt so much more about healthcare and made so many new friends. It’s been fabulous!”
As a final note Maddy tells about a slogan a friend had given to her – it might just be a fitting personal motto for her: “The NHS is for life, not just for pandemics.”
You can contact Maddy and all our governors by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org