A quarter of the year has passed since January 1st 2021 so it’s about time we started to introduce you to some of our new Public Governors. Our Governors serve a maximum of three, three year terms which means that we regularly hold governor elections towards the end of the year. A number of seats were contested in 2020, one of which was won by Graham Paling who became one of two new representatives for Bolsover, taking his seat on the Council of Governors at the very beginning of 2021. We had a chat with him about how he’s found his first few months, under very challenging and unusual circumstances

Hi Graham, welcome to the Chesterfield Royal Hospital Council of Governors.

Thank you, delighted to be a part of it.

Tell us a bit about your background…

I don’t come from a health background, in fact my history is mainly in the electricity supply industry. I was brought up near Derby and took up an engineering apprenticeship with East Midlands Electricity Board which helped to get me through college and gain the qualifications I needed to progress. I was posted to Boston in Lincolnshire in 1976 where I worked my way up to a Planning Engineer by the turn of the millennium, working on all sorts of projects including one in Kuala Lumpur which was incredibly interesting. 

I’ve seen a lot of takeovers, experienced a lot of change over the years and I’ve also taken on some Union work. I know a bit about holding people to account, representing groups of people, asking difficult questions on their behalf and taking part in challenging conversations. I hope all of that will hold me in good stead as a Public Governor.

How did that lead to you applying for the Public Governor position?

Well, I’d been a member for some time so I always got the card asking for people to put themselves forward as a Public Governor. I thought about it whilst I was working but felt I couldn’t give the time and then, when I retired, it was something that I looked at again. It was actually my Wife who persuaded me to throw my hat into the ring and I honestly didn’t think I would be successful so I was delighted when I got the call. I’ve been on committees before and I do like to contribute so I’m very much looking forward to getting stuck in.

What do you think you can bring to the role?

Working in the electricity supply industry, people get very upset if their supply goes off. It’s never a good time to be without power and I think the same applies when you need hospital treatment. It’s rarely something you plan into your life. This past year has taught us a lot in terms of dealing with a different kind of emergency and in the past I’ve had to be very organised, had to talk to a lot of upset people and help to resolve some difficult situations. I enjoy getting involved and helping to solve problems, address situations, help where I can and educate people through experience.

How have you found the role so far?

It’s been hard work and we’ve had to get up to speed quite quickly without being able to come into the hospital. They say a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and my medical knowledge is negligible so I’d like to find out more about what happens here, how it happens and why.  My sister used to be a Speech and Language Therapist here at the Royal and both of her daughters are in the medical profession as a GP and a Nurse. It’s quite hard to feel fully involved so far without being able to physically meet anyone or be familiar with the geography of the hospital but hopefully, in time, that will change

Have you managed to get involved much yet?

I have, yes. I’m already a part of the Engagement and Involvement Committee and have attended one of the meetings over MS Teams. It’s an interesting one to be involved with as it addresses how the Trust engages and communicates with its Governors and Members as well as getting an overview of some of the press and communication that’s been promoted through the social media channels. It’s actually a very good way to keep up to date with what’s been happening.

I know that our Public Governors are regularly involved in risk assessments, audits, ward visits and a number of projects that you could call ‘hands on’. I know that’s not possible, at least not in as practical a way as it was before Covid-19, but I’m hoping to be more involved in that kind of thing when the situation allows.

And how about contact with other Governors?

I’ve been buddied up with another Governor, Frank Benison who represents Chesterfield, and he’s been brilliant. He’s also from an engineering background so we’ve got a bit in common. He told me that it took him around a year to 18 months to get up to speed so I imagine it might take me a little longer, at least until I’m able to come on site. Most of the contact we’ve had has been on MS Teams or Zoom so it’s not ideal but it is what it is right now and it’s the best we can do.

All I can do is keep up as best I can, learn what I can when I get the opportunity and look forward to when we can come on site, see how the hospital works first hand and meet people face to face.