70 for 70
70 for 70

Peter Molyneux

Peter Molyneux started in post as the new Chair of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust on April 1, 2018. Here he shares his personal reflections as part of our 70 Stories for 70 Years NHS birthday celebrations.

Peter Molyneux started in post as the new Chair of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust on April 1, 2018

Here he shares his personal reflections as part of our 70 Stories for 70 Years NHS birthday celebrations.

“I think it’s a really important sign of a civilised society that it decides access to health care should not be based on where you live or how much you earn.

“The NHS is one of our great achievements – one of our great institutions - and I am incredibly proud to be part of that, working alongside fantastic staff and patients who help to make it what it is.”

As well as his role as Chair of SPFT, Peter is also a Visiting Fellow at the John Madejski Centre for Reputation Management at Henley Business School, a Board Member of Recovery Focus and a Stonewall Ambassador.

Before joining us, Peter had been Chair of South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust since 2011. 

Passionate about mental health and wellbeing and working in partnership to improve services, Peter’s background is in the voluntary sector where he worked in social housing, creating housing opportunities for people with HIV, people seriously affected by mental health illness and older people affected by cognitive impairment.

He remembers the reaction of his parents when the NHS was formed in 1948.

“Both my parents were about 25 when the NHS was founded. They were so proud. They thought it was a wonderful institution because of course they could remember what happened before the NHS,” said Peter.

“But when they both became ill in later life neither of them had a brilliant experience. I found that upsetting and I wanted to understand why that happened and what could be done to make it better.”

So Peter successfully applied for a non-executive director post at his local NHS Trust and found it a very rewarding experience.

“It is an incredible privilege to be part of the NHS. You get to spend time with some fantastic people - patients, staff and the public – all of whom are so incredibly passionate about this great institution.

“They all have an opinion and one of the great privileges about being Chair is you get to have those conversations with people and hear their views - and you also get to be part of the team that then tries to think through and deliver the right strategy to meet the expectations of the public. If you can’t deliver all those expectations, the job is to create the space for those conversations to take place to decide what to do and to ensure that everyone has a say in the process.”

We asked Peter what he believes the biggest challenges are for the NHS as it celebrates its 70th year. He said finances, and the need for the NHS to look at the people it serves as a whole.

“How do we bring the whole of the person to the table? How do we ensure that the NHS is looking at the person in the context of their family, their neighbourhood and their community?

“I think this is something that the Chair can influence and shape and, although challenging, I think it’s hugely rewarding.

“We are operating in an environment of financial restraint and we are faced with having to make some quite difficult choices.

“We have to try and engage patients, staff and the public in those conversations as best we can and I think people understandably can get quite anxious and angry about some of those choices.

“I am also very conscious that people are under a lot of pressure. I feel a responsibility to look after our staff and our patients and I think that’s becoming harder to do as financial restraint gets tighter.

“There’s a real challenge around trying to create the headroom so that we can do the transformation and make the changes that will ensure the NHS is sustainable for the future. People are faced with such significant day to day challenges that are hard enough without asking them to look to the horizon and make changes.”

But, there’s a real sense of optimism and a determination to adapt to the challenges.

Peter said: “What’s really impressive about SPFT – and what you pick up very quickly -  is that there’s a real passion, a real determination and a real sense of enthusiasm to deliver the very best care possible. There’s also a real commitment to – and some really good examples of - working very well with our patients to make sure that we are developing and changing services in response to their needs.

“So while there is no doubt that the NHS is facing some of the biggest challenges in its history, I am confident that with the skill, passion and determination of our staff and patients we will be in the very best possible position to overcome those challenges.”