10 January 2019
1. What first sparked your interest and passion for global health?
As Chief Executive of the NHS I became aware of how much people gained from spending time working on projects in Africa and India. They came back refreshed and remembering why they had become a doctor or a nurse or whatever, in the first place. It re-kindled people’s enthusiasm. At the same time – at the beginning of the century – I was beginning to recognise how much different health systems were linked and how much we owed to many countries whose nationals had come to work and train in the UK.
2. How did you come to know Eldryd, THET’s founder? Perhaps a little about your working life together?
I met Eldryd at this time and he persuaded me to second a very senior clinician, Dr David Percy, to THET to help develop the organisation. David and I worked together with THET and with the Zambian UK Health Workforce Alliance for the next 8 or 9 years. I got to know Eldryd at this time and we traveled to Ethiopia where I visited a number of THET projects and learned more about the possibilities of partnership as a way of supporting development in low and middle income countries but also as a way of helping UK health workers to develop their skills and understanding. Eldryd has been a mentor to me – as he has been to many others – and I have learned an enormous amount from him – he has both such a deep humanity and a great professional depth of knowledge.
3. Why do you support the work of THET and what made you want to become their first Patron?
For all the reasons above. It is good for the UK and the countries it serves. It is a great source of inspiration and hope in a world where the news is always about problems. This is about people trying to do something about it. In addition it is neither one of these big corporate NGOs which are far distant from the people they serve nor a government agency with all that that implies. It is about people relating to people and a symbol of global friendship and citizenship.
4. What do you think the biggest challenges we face in improving global health are?
Staffing. It’s as simple as that. Health is about human contact and human judgement. I could add we need the right people with the right education and skills, deployed and managed effectively and with the right resources – but the simple point is that this is about people with all their talents, passion and creativity. We are at least 20 million short as we stand. And we don’t enable people – particularly nurses, the most undervalued part of the workforce – to work to their full potential. Only people can take on the great challenges we face globally from climate change to conflict to obesity and AMR.
5. What are your ambitions for the UK’s contribution towards meeting these challenges and what do you think the role of health partnerships and THET is in this?
Enormous. The UK has this fantastic tradition in educating professionals coupled with some of the best science in the world. It is an extraordinary base from which to take on these global issues. The APPG on Global Health will be publishing an update on The UK’s Contribution to Health Globally later this year. It will argue for the UK to actively develop itself as one of the great health centres of the world – in academia, government action, commerce and the voluntary sector. Partnerships and THET’s work will be central to this – and to developing good international relationships at the citizen level as well as at the government level. The UK should become the best networked country in the world – THET can help.