"The NHS is a unique organisation, the greatest thing this country has ever achieved and the greatest contribution to equality in society."
Nick McMaster is based at Mill View Hospital in Hove and is the Lead Activities Facilitator/ Star Wards Lead/ Carers’ Lead for the Occupational Therapy service. His role as Unison lead means he also represents the interests of staff across the Trust at a local, regional and national level.
When and why did you join the NHS?
I joined in December 1991. I started as a receptionist at the New Sussex Hospital in Hove, which was originally a maternity hospital, then a mental health hospital and is now residential flats.
I had an arts background but needed employment to supplement that side of my life. I have always been political and valued public service. This was the first job opportunity in that sector that I was offered.
What does your current role involve?
I have two roles, one substantive, one seconded. The former involves coordinating the inpatient therapeutic programme of activities in Mill View Hospital, the mental health unit in Hove. I also run a carers’ support group. My latter role is staff side lead for Brighton & Hove.
This is related to being a Union steward and chiefly comprises of negotiating, liaising and feeding back to senior management on workplace terms and conditions and matters of health and safety.
In my staff side role I am currently looking at how the Trust can retain its older workforce (defined as people aged 50 or over). Recruitment across the NHS is extremely difficult and it is vital that we retain the older workforce, that make up 40% of our staff. They provide skills, experience and knowledge and are not easily replaced! At the other end, I have an interest in how we can recruit younger staff into the Trust.
What do you think makes the NHS so special?
It is a unique organisation, the greatest thing this country has ever achieved and the greatest contribution to equality in society. It is continually recognised as one of the most efficient, economical and productive health services in the world, for which we should feel rightly proud. What other public service would ever be recognised in an Olympic opening ceremony?!
What do you think the next 70 years hold for the NHS?
It is hard not to be political, but we must ensure that for the NHS to survive we need increased funding and for it to remain at the heart of the public sector, run by the public sector. Otherwise I feel that it will break up and follow the American health model which creates inequality and poverty. In terms of mental health I hope that we have the chance to increase psychological input and adopt the social model in supporting people.