In response to HSJ's list of the 50 most influential people in the NHS, I thought I would offer my own list of the people who have influenced my career in the NHS. It includes people I think make a difference, go that extra mile or who have influenced me in particular. Even at my great age, I am always keen to pick up tips.
All receptionists - in hospitals, clinics, day centres and GP surgeries. People attending are anxious and may come across as abrupt. A calm demeanour, a friendly smile and an explanation about what happens next can make them feel welcome, soothe their nerves and help them prepare for their assessment or treatment.
A health visitor I met as a student in 1976. She introduced me to people I had met previously as hospital patients and showed me why going home is the most important thing for everyone, no matter how old or frail. In hospital, people seemed incapable of doing anything for themselves. At home, the same people, with minimal support, were making cups of tea, feeding the cat and tending the garden. This was community care before the term was invented. I have believed in it ever since.
A nursing officer who must remain nameless. As a very junior member of staff, I went with trepidation to report abuse of an extremely vulnerable patient. I have never forgotten the response: 'You should learn to keep your eyes open and your mouth shut. Now get out of my office.' She made me want to be in charge so that I could get rid of managers like her. Abuse and neglect occur where there is collusion and where managers are concentrating on the wrong things.
All of my bosses: I have had some great ones and some not so great. Ruth Carnall (number nine according to the HSJ50) was fantastic at shouldering responsibility and giving effective feedback. Glynn Jones showed me how charm is a sharper implement than rudeness. And another nameless person showed me that sexual harassment and bullying can in the end make you stronger, although I do not recommend looking for the worst boss in the world in order to learn how not to lead.
Paul Hurst – this wonderful surgeon tried to save my father's life from septicaemia. It was not so much what he said but the way he said it that gave us confidence even though everything was falling apart. We will always remember Mr Hurst for his skill and compassion.
All good nurses and indeed all good staff everywhere - they know why.
Having a leadership role in the NHS is a massive privilege. We must never forget how lucky we are to work with such great people, and to know that the work that we all do is so important. I hope all NHS colleagues everywhere have a great holiday season, at work and at home, and a wonderful 2008.