Robert Alabaster is a public governor at the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust and is the ambulance representative on the Governor Advisory Committee.
What made you become a governor?
After retiring from a 30 year career in the NHS I wanted to give something back to the NHS locally and to represent my local community. Before I retired I was an appointed governor with an acute trust as the ambulance representative so I already had an insight into the governor role.
I wanted to give something back to the NHS locally and to represent my local community.Public governor
How long have you been a governor?
I am now in my seventh year as public governor for County Durham on the North East Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust. For my first three years I served as lead governor. Not all trusts have them but I am currently the deputy lead governor.
What career/jobs/life experiences have you had that are relevant to your governor role?
I had a varied career working in NHS management in London, Edinburgh and the North East in the acute hospital sector, in community health services and in the Ambulance Service. Firstly as chief executive of Durham County Ambulance Service, then as executive director in the North East Ambulance service. This has helped me in the governor role as I started the role with a really good understanding of how the service works.
What made you stand for election to the Governor Advisory Committee?
I believed that with my experience in both the acute sector and the ambulance service I could help to demonstrate the benefits of close working between the two sectors. The ambulance service is at the front line of the health service and problems within the service, such as ambulance queues outside emergency departments, are often a symptom of wider problems with the health and social care system.
What do you think is the most important role a governor plays?
Holding the board to account by constructive challenge and questioning and by representing the views of users, while not straying into operational matters. In my experience governors can be tempted to focus on operational issues!
I really enjoy contributing to lively and positive debates in the council meetings and governor committees.Public governor
What do you enjoy most about being a governor?
I really enjoy contributing to lively and positive debates in the council meetings and governor committees.
What changes in healthcare that you see locally or nationally excite you?
I see a much greater awareness of the contribution of the ambulances service as the front end to NHS whole system working. The 111 call handling service is making a major impact in providing appropriate responses to callers who do not necessarily require an emergency ambulance response. North East Ambulance Foundation Trust runs the local 111 service and the integration of the call handlers for both the 999 and 111 services undoubtedly has benefits for patients.
The importance of the patient transport service (PTS) is often underestimated. When it works well, patients can be delivered directly to the departments they require and can be discharged at the time that suits them.Public governor
The importance of the patient transport service (PTS) is often underestimated. When it works well, patients can be delivered directly to the departments they require and can be discharged at the time that suits them. North East Ambulance Foundation Trust has restructured its PTS providing a service over a longer working day which is able to respond to short notice requests to take patients home after discharge. The PTS can also provide a useful source of recruitment for the emergency service too as I have seen a number of PTS staff go onto take further training and become paramedics.
Governor Advisory Committee (GAC) members provide oversight and feedback on our work and areas that require debate and action. They help to shape the governor services we provide to our members such as our GovernWell training programme, annual Governor focus conference, bespoke training and guidance resources.
If you would like to contact Robert please email him on Governors@nhsproviders.org.