Opinion

Meet the talented new president

Broadcaster, presenter and vocal coach to the stars Carrie Grant is the new honorary president of the CPHVA. She tells us about her passion for the NHS, her vision for patient-led healthcare, and the power of community practitioners to effect change.

It’s almost impossible to sum up Carrie Grant. While best known for her television appearances, including as a judge on Pop Idol and a reporter on the BBC’s The One Show, she is also a MOBO-award-winning gospel singer, an author, a business and leadership coach, a tireless campaigner and
a mum of four.

She is certainly no stranger to the health service, having lived with Crohn’s disease since the age of 18, and as a mother of four children with special educational needs. Her eldest daughter Olivia, 22, has ADHD and dyspraxia; Talia, 15, has Asperger’s syndrome; Imogen, 11, is autistic; and her seven-year-old adopted son Nathan has attachment difficulties and ADHD.

Her experiences have led her to become an active campaigner for change in healthcare systems and an advocate for service users. She is the patient lead for the College of Medicine and an ambassador for three charities: Crohn’s & Colitis UK, the National Autistic Society and the Diana Award. She sits on the largest transforming care panel in the UK for mental health and learning disabilities and, with her husband David, runs four community support groups from her home.

 

‘Humbled and honoured’

It is this background that makes her a good fit for her latest role as honorary president of the CPHVA, an appointment she is ‘humbled and honoured’ by. 

‘I have spent years gathering families, children and young people; I wanted to take another position in the team around the child, to try to understand and add value to the professional’s perspective,’ explains Carrie, 52.

‘When I was offered the presidency I had to think about whether I can be effective. Raising four children, I don’t have time to waste. It’s about how I can serve the CPHVA for however long I’m here – I want to make a difference.

‘I believe we have some amazing community practitioners and health visitors out there who just need the encouragement to believe they can make a big difference. They need permission to fully be the leaders they have the potential to be.’

Carrie has spoken many times about the need for patients to lead in their own care. She believes that bringing people together in communities, be that in charities or parents’ groups, is fundamental to making this work.

‘I absolutely love the NHS and I will support it all the way,’ she says. ‘I have seen massive changes, and the question now is how to make sure the NHS is sustainable. When you’ve got a couple of million people working in the NHS and 65 million using it, you can do the maths. How can we get patients and clients to share the load?

‘I think the health visitors and community practitioners have an amazing opportunity to assist communities to empower individuals. The pressure is shared out.’

Only a few weeks into her presidency, Carrie has already attended the CPHVA executive committee meeting.

‘I love that the CPHVA sits on a rich heritage of “can do” women,’ she says. ‘They are the frontline professionals, the first base to connect and share. No matter how many boxes need to be ticked in a meeting, this is the most vital work – the connection between one another, helping others to believe they “can do” as well.

‘These early connections make a way for parents, children and young people to open up and speak, be empowered and move forward. Now that is a privileged work to be a part of.’

 

A new perspective

Carrie has already tuned in to pressing concerns around workloads, down-banding and retention issues, especially among those brought in during the government’s ‘call to action’, which
sought to train 4200 new health visitors by 2015.

She says: ‘I am looking forward to going into meetings with policy-makers and arguing the case from the patient perspective – I’m on the receiving end of this. They need to listen to what’s happening on the ground.’

She is also committed to raising the profile of the CPHVA and the members it represents: ‘I don’t think people truly value or understand the work they do, unless they’ve had a really good personal experience with a health visitor or school nurse.’ 

Carrie herself credits an ‘amazing health visitor’ with spotting the signs of autism in her daughter when she was still a toddler: ‘I thought she might be deaf or have problems with her hearing as she was covering her ears. My health visitor was a complete life-saver – she set me on the right road.’

And she is full of praise for school nurses who did everything they could to meet the needs of her daughter with Asperger’s during her recent immunisations.

‘Some school nurses have caseloads of thousands. As parents you think you’re the only one – and that’s how I was made to feel, which is incredible.’

Passion and ideas flow from Carrie as we speak – but underpinning it all is the desire to learn and understand.

‘I really want to listen. I want people to get in touch – on Twitter, on email – to hear their stories, so I can advocate effectively for them.

‘There’s a lot out there that’s not going right and needs to be challenged but, in spite of that, they are still able to do one of the most amazing jobs in the country.’ 


All about Carrie Grant

Carrie is married to singer, television presenter and vocal coach David.

How do you relax?

‘I take long baths, read, sew, chat to friends and have a date night with David.’

What about you surprises people?

‘My TV career is only a small part of my life – I have a rich and broad hinterland.’

Do you have any ambitions yet to fulfil?

‘As I get older I feel more passionately about making sure people are empowered whatever situation they find themselves in.’

What does a typical day consist of (if such a day exists)?

‘You are right, there isn’t one! I get up really early to make sure the structure is in place to access services for my children. I normally have at least one meeting for one of them every weekday.

‘My working hours are odd, so I may drive to Manchester for the evening and arrive home at 2am. The One Show can call the night before and ask me to fly to Glasgow the next morning.

‘Weekends are sacrosanct. We run support groups at our home, so sometimes the house is full of people. It’s a place of sharing and supporting one another.’

 

Picture credit | Alamy

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