Three Days, Three Very Different Presentations. Guest blog by Geoff Lawrence, Kent and Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership

15th November to 17th November – Three Days, Three Very Different Presentations.

Day One – National Finance Academy Career Developers Programme Guest Speaker – It was a privilege to be asked to speak at the above training event, targeted at Finance Staff Bands 5 and 6. The theme was centred around my career from working in International Investment Finance to working in the NHS. I described the challenges and how I overcame them and the lessons that I learned along the way.

The focus though was how I set out to establish relationships with Finance and more importantly non-finance staff. The hours that I spent understanding the workings of a District General Hospital and mapping processes using the 5 open ended questions of How, What, Why, When and Where. By using this approach, I was able to create robust Provider to Provider contracts, reflecting current working practices matched to a detailed financial schedule.

Constant improvement was highlighted and using my own experience of being a patient with a life-threatening condition. Setting out how I used that experience as a catalyst to further my ambition to better understand patient pathways, immerse myself into appreciating all of the individual elements from GP referral to rehabilitation and a return to normal life. For me, improving patient care is the driver. Adapting my skillset, listening intently and constant engagement was just the start. Being solution-focused, not problem based, working outside of my comfort zone and realising that the finance world is way beyond month end reporting has contributed to what I believe has been a successful career.

Sharing all of the above with the upcoming senior finance professionals was a pleasure and I hoped that some of what I shared left them with a positive experience.

Day Two – One NHS Finance, South East/South West Sponsee Meeting, Guest Speaker – I was asked to talk about building cross function/organisational relationships. I used my experience from the day before, illustrating some of the methods that I adopt and some of the valuable hints and tips that colleagues can use.

Using a couple of illustrations, whilst overcoming the vagaries of sharing files on Microsoft Teams, the focus was on relationships, how many you have and at what level of the NHS hierarchy. Using an inverted pyramid, I showed that the majority of the people we know professionally will work in our department and/or Trust and the higher we go up the chain to NHS England the less people we know.

The second illustration was the Relationship Circle and what elements you need to use to initiate, foster, maintain, expand and retain your relationships.

Our relationships that we make in the NHS are the very heart of improving patient care.

This was well received and in a meeting with one of my sponsees a couple of days later, we discussed how this relationship circle is not just for work but how we can use it in all walks of life.  

Day Three – Kings College Hospital, CAR-T (Chimeric Antigen Receptor Treatment) Preceptorship, Patient Experience Speaker – For the fourth time, Kings approached me to talk to around 30 doctors from as far as Hong Kong, face to face, and illustrate what it is like for a patient to experience CAR-T.

CAR-T is a third line treatment for treating blood cancers and in my case Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma or in my case Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma. Patients should have already had their cancer twice before and treatment has to be approved by a panel as the cost is in excess of £1 million. In simplistic terms CAR-T is a very complex and specialist treatment. A specialist collects and makes a small change to your T cells. After a few weeks, these cells back into your bloodstream. The CAR T-cells then recognise and attack the cancer cells. It is commonly referred to as genetic engineering.

Illustrating my medical history is not unusual for me but it is always a challenge when speaking to different audiences and those that know the science so well. I admit that is my perception and every audience is very different. What I can say is that, every member is engaged and with this patient dialogue they get a better feel for what the patient experiences, the small highs and the insurmountable lows that every cancer patient has.

When you are told that you only have a 30% chance of living and that this treatment is your last hope of a cure, the odds are insignificant. The side effects that are explained in such detail, the very detailed care planning that you have to put in place; where you want to die, your funeral arrangements, your will, the never-ending questions that you have to answer, all of them surrounding what could be your life’s end, are a living nightmare.

It was this last part that I was questioned on the most, with many doctors and clinical professionals asking me, what they could do to improve the mental health of these patients. I was more than happy to talk endlessly about support from nurses on the ward right through to the current support that I have from a clinical psychologist. Mental health support is crucially needed for all cancer patients whether they are currently going through treatment or, if like me, they are currently in remission, with the constant fear of relapse.

Working in a Mental Health Trust has certainly opened my eyes to the extraordinary work that my fellow clinicians provide. My experience, tempered with my ability to openly talk about my life has certainly helped my mental health and as long as I am able (and wanted), I will continue to support Kings, Macmillan Cancer Care and my own Trust helping others.

Three days, three very different presentations, a rollercoaster of emotions and a plethora of experiences to share. Even if I do say so myself, I am an extraordinary man.

Blog written by Geoff Lawrence, Associate Director Contracts and Due Diligence, Kent & Medway NHS and Social Care Partnership.