A very fond farewell…

December 17, 2021
Today is 17th December 2021, and it is my last working day for Healthwatch Kirklees and Healthwatch Calderdale, and I feel all kinds of sentimental. I started working for Healthwatch Kirklees as the Project Coordinator on 2nd September 2013, shifting to Director at Healthwatch Calderdale from April 2016, then Chief Executive across Kirklees and Calderdale from July 2018. And what a rollercoaster it has been!

From raising concerns about the lack of appropriate locations for people to get mental health act assessments, to studiously reviewing engagement about hospital trusts, to championing the importance of people’s voice in our local strategies and plans, it’s always felt like there’s new stuff to learn, more great people to work with, and innovative and different ways to make change happen through listening closely to what people in Kirklees and Calderdale need.

I consider myself very lucky to have worked with the most incredible team at Healthwatch Kirklees and Healthwatch Calderdale (past and present); they’ve made the job of explaining the importance and value of involving the public very easy with their creative, powerful, diverse and kind interaction with the public. Take a look at our YouTube channel to see so many fabulous examples of that great work.

So I am thrilled that staff within the team at Healthwatch in Kirklees and Calderdale will be taking over my role! As more and more of the work that happens in health and care is focused on working in collaboration at “place” (on the Calderdale or Kirklees footprint), it seemed like the right time to have a senior manager working in each area. I’m sure many people will already be familiar with the colleagues taking on these roles.

Stacey Appleyard has worked with Healthwatch Kirklees for 7 years; first as our communications lead, and then as Team Manager. Now she’ll be Director for Healthwatch Kirklees.

Karen Huntley has been part of the Healthwatch Calderdale team since 2016, initially working as an advocate for people making NHS complaints, then supporting the team as a senior officer, before taking the role as Team Manager. She will be Director for Healthwatch Calderdale.

Keeping our team working closely together, focusing on skills, good quality projects, and supporting the staff team will be Clare Costello. Clare started on the same day as me and has always taken a leading role on delivering excellent engagement with vulnerable and marginalised groups. They will be leading a superb Healthwatch team, and I’m very excited to sit back and see what fantastic work they deliver next.

I feel every bit as passionate about involving people fully in their care and amplifying their voices to influence how health and care services work as I did when I first started at Healthwatch. In fact, I’m more convinced than ever of how important it is. And I truly believe there is a sincere commitment to this in all the health and care systems I have worked in. Yes, there is always more work to do to capture views from marginalised groups, to give greater variety in how people can share their stories, to maintain an ongoing conversation with our communities, but I think that we can see those gaps clearly now and commit to enhancing what we do. The energy is there to make that happen, and I think that might be the biggest change of all.

Finally, I want to say a big old thank you to the people I have worked closely within health and care services in Kirklees, Calderdale and across West Yorkshire. Especially over the last two years, it’s been essential for people working in health and care to pull together, and I have really felt that has been inclusive. The best people overcome the biggest challenges in the most turbulent of times, and I see so many examples of that every day.

Sending lots of festive cheer out into the world. Take care everyone. Helen

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