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Strong motivation for caring led to a career in mental health

16 April 2018


David Foord was just 16 years old when he gave up attending his usual P.E. lesson on a Wednesday afternoon to volunteer his time to work in a local care home. Growing up with a close family member suffering from mental illness had reinforced his career choice, and even though he was still studying in sixth form at school, David already knew he wanted a career in a care profession.

David explains: “That initial desire to look after people has stayed with me – and is something that runs through the entire NHS – to really care for patients, and that is definitely worth reflecting on as we celebrate the NHS70th birthday.”

David took a year out of studying to work as a care assistant in Cell Barnes Hospital with people with learning disabilities who had been in hospital for long periods, before applying for a place at Hertfordshire University.

By 1998 David had qualified as a registered nurse after becoming one of the first people to study the new Mental Health Degree Nursing programme, which combined pre-registration nurse training with a university degree. Even though he was one of only four men who took part in nursing training in his cohort he wasn’t fazed, but when the time came to move from student training to work on an NHS mental health ward with very ill or volatile patients who had been referred by the courts, David remembers feeling a little underprepared.

He recalls: “I was 21 when I was physically attacked by an agitated patient who was receiving one-to-one monitoring at the time. But the experience didn’t stop me from wanting to care for people with mental health problems. After all, I had been trained and equipped with the skills to deal with those sorts of situations, if they arose. The patient hadn’t meant to attack me personally, he was just ill, so I didn’t let it affect my confidence to work with other patients.

“The motivation to help people to recover spurs you on when you have a career in the NHS, or any care profession. Nobody goes into nursing for the money - the thing that motivates you is helping people and the desire to make things better for patients”.

David made the move from front line nursing to management in the NHS in 1999, after realising the potential to help NHS patients and public on a much larger scale. During that time he has participated in many exciting areas of work as part of teams, including the merger of thirty separate organisations into an NHS Trust, helped establish Milton Keynes Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and founded the Quality Team in Luton CCG.

However, he still calls on his front line nursing experiences to help influence the strategic decisions he makes which affect the healthcare services that patients receive. 

David continues: “I love working as part of a team, big or small, to achieve common goals and improve outcomes for patients. I am proud to share my story of working in the NHS, what it stands for, the services it provides for the public and how it has evolved in 70 years since it was launched. The way we treat mental health is also evolving, bringing together social, physical and emotional wellbeing into one service, so we can tailor treatment specifically to suit patients’ needs. There are some incredible and inspiring staff who work for the NHS and it is their skills and compassion that ensure that patients’ needs are in the forefront of everything we do”.

Do you have a story to tell to celebrate the NHS 70th birthday? If so, please email nhs70.stories@nhs.net 

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